The Metaphysics of Cutting Grass

“Mowing is applied art; in doing it, one edits the lawn, grooming the ragged, shearing the shaggy, making the unruly ruly.” via The Smart Set: The Metaphysics of Cutting Grass – August 5, 2010.

You can have a philosophy of just about anything, I guess. For example, if you mow grass, you’ll enjoy Jerry DeNuccio’s essay “The Metaphysics of Mowing Grass.”  Jerry uses the time he cuts grass to allow his mind to wander, to allow unbeckoned thoughts to surface.

He also delights in the physicality of the act, the fact that he can see a difference in the way his lawn looks as a result of this work–in contrast to his work as a teacher, where he very rarely gets a glimpse of the influence his work has on the minds of those he teaches.

My approach is slightly different. I put on the earphones and crank up the iPod to listen to an audiobook, or a podcast  like “This Week in Tech,” or “This American Life.” It’s a great way to “multitask” for me. Mowing doesn’t take a lot of mental energy or focus. I can do two things at once.

But, there’s something to be said for the meditative approach to this kind of labor. It could be a time to get away from the endless soaking rain of information I allow myself live in. It could be an opportunity to allow my own thoughts a few minutes of freedom from the encroaching thoughts of others.

Last night my wife and I went to see the movie “Inception.” (No spoilers here.) In this very entertaining and intense movie you are asked to consider what might happen if an idea could be planted in your mind in a dream, without your knowledge.  You can’t help reflecting on the fact that ideas are planted in our conscious minds, with and without our knowledge, nearly every waking minute of every day.

How many of these ideas simply enter our heads and go to work without any editing on our part? What is our responsibility? Should we intercept as many as possible, evaluate them and edit them? Or, knowing it’s almost impossible to do that and maybe not even desirable, do we instead take a defensive posture and pour thoughts of our own choosing into our minds?

Of course, there’s a balance. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”   Maybe the most important part of the process is to have a philosophy, to consciously examine ideas and even to try on a new philosophy from time to time.

I may give Jerry’s philosophy of mowing a try today.

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One response to “The Metaphysics of Cutting Grass

  1. Pingback: John Hodgman asks: “Flight or Invisibility?” | Venite

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