Skip to content
Photo by Steve Adams / Unsplash

I have a client in Detroit who keeps a small stash of money at his son's house, along with a few guns, on the west side of Michigan, in a rural farming community.

The reason?

"When things collapse and Detroit erupts, I'll boogie out and live with my son, where the food is."

He lived only a few miles from the Blind Pig speakeasy, where the 1967 Detroit riot started, and the riot's destruction came close to his neighborhood. He saw the 2020 BLM riots damage dozens of cities. He's also aware that pretty much all unrest in American history has started in the cities, at least by the mid-1800s.

Urban areas are geared for unrest. We can discuss, debate, and argue about the causes, but one thing is clear: unrest is fueled by dogma.

If a person is acting with such firm conviction that he feels violence is justified, he's holding a firm conviction. It might be a correct or incorrect conviction, understandable or irrational blind passion, but it is a firm conviction that brooks no disagreement. It is, in other words, dogmatic.

The left hemisphere of the brain leans dogmatic.

The hallmark of modernity is left-hemispheric domination. Modernity is left-hemispheric and left-hemisphere hegemony is modernity.

We are all raised in a culture that values, asserts, and pushes the left hemisphere. We all need to re-engage our right hemispheres.

We can do it in many ways. Poetry, true leisure, mindfulness meditation, recreational reading, maybe even psychedelics.

But gardening is a hobby uniquely geared toward the restoration of equilibrium among the hemispheres.

The right hemisphere is receptive to those things demanded by the garden: uncertainty, failure, surprise, patience, slowness, curiosity. The garden also engages the left hemisphere: it plots, plans, and implements procedures, often with impressive precision.

But gardening keeps the right hemisphere in the master position because gardening, due to setbacks and surprises and the inherent uncertainty built into dealing with nature, relentlessly pushes the right hemisphere to the front by slapping down the left hemisphere.  

We're experiencing a massive renewal in urban gardening. Detroit itself has several community gardens and expansive gardening operations, bordering on farms, with some raising chickens and other small animals (I've never been sure where "gardening" crosses into "farming" . . . it's not just growing for profit; if that were the case, the small plot with roadside stand would be a "farm").

It's a promising sign. Few things are more equanimous than the gardener's mind, and few things are less receptive to dogma than equanimity. The more dogma is squished, the less likely urban unrest.