Finding Meaning in Garden Work

By Gregory Amoresano

Originally published in the Echo of Camphill Village, Copake, NY – 2015

The garden, like any other workplace, brings together a multitude of individuality. A multitude of individuality in the garden, like in any other workplace, brings a multitude of challenges. Among these challenges, however, there lay pivotal that of recognizing the commonality among the individuals. That is to say, to find one thing in each individual that is common among all other individuals. In the garden, as it must be in other workplaces, this common trait, in so far as I have observed, is the desire to contribute meaningfully to the work.

One might say, as I have heard it been said, that so and so is lazy or never wants to do this or that task in the garden. One could then argue that such attitudes toward work shows nothing of a desire to contribute. However, I say, and only because I have observed it in myself, that one holds such an attitude toward work not out of a lack in desire to contribute, but because one has yet to find the meaning in such tasks. From such an understanding, the group reveals itself as individualities: what I find meaningful in the work may not be found meaningful to the other.

In recognizing these individualities, while also understanding the common desire of each individual to contribute meaningfully, one reveals his or her true challenge. The true challenge for each individual, is not to ask: How do I get an individual, or even myself, to do this task that needs to be done? Rather, one must ask the question: How can I provide meaning for the individual, or myself, in the work that must be done? What becomes essential in asking the later question rather than the first, is that finding meaning in our work takes priority to simply doing the work.

What a great challenge we are presented with!

Of course, we can each recognize for ourselves those tasks which we have a lazy attitude towards. Here, we meet the challenge of finding or instilling meaning in the work for ourselves. What is an even greater task, however, is observing the same attitude in others. Further, helping another to find their own individual meaning in the work can be the greatest challenge of all.

How simple it would be if we each could drone about from one job to another like interchangeable parts! How short our search for the “right person for the job!” Yes, how wonderful it would be when we each would simply do. Yet, how boring! How lifeless our work would be without meaning pervading it! After all, as gardeners, is it not our vocation to bring life into the world?