Linus: Yes Sir, I am a gardener. Well metaphorically speakin', I'm a gardener. My job is to get things bloomin' in due season an' weeded out when they're finished bloomin'. Makin' sure there's always a new display about to roll into colour. An' everything that goes with that, y'know. I mean design'n for the result we want an' layin' out to the design, gettin the soil mix right, keepin the growth happenin where its wanted. Gardner’s the job.
Editor: Cutting the poppies before they grow too tall, eh?
Linus: We don't ‘av tall poppies 'ere. We have roses, Sir. I tend the roses.
Editor: How do you grow your roses Linus?
Linus: There are many ways Sir. As many as there are roses I expect.
Linus: Then what matters is to know yer rose and ter know the job yer want it to do. Also to know the other roses that are goin' to grow, aroun’ it. Well take this one ‘ere Sir. This' a new hybrid species.
You can tell straightway by some’o’the features: the soft pretty appearance, rather feminine colour, fer instance.
Linus: Yes Sir. This kind of yellow's not a natural colour in roses and Sir, you see the fullness of the bloom, the absence o’ many thorns, and softer thorns too, Sir. This is a rose produced for certain effect, especially for cuttin’ and handlin’. Its not a romantic rose, its far too pretty. But its popular too in new gardens.
Editor: Not so likely to do damage eh?
Linus: Not at all Sir. This is not a true rose, Sir. Not in the historical sense. Its what gardeners call a modern hybrid. Modern because its a relatively new sort of rose, and hybrid because its not really this an’ not really that.
Editor: Are they popular, Linus. these new roses?
Linus: Well, mostly Sir; But its a look good rose. A feel good rose. Its a rose for people who don't really know or value their roses. Its a sort of show pony rose I suppose. Here today, all fresh new, bright, different, claiming to have everything people want and then ..... suddenly its gone and no one will really even notice.
Editor: Where do they go then Linus, these showpony roses?
Linus: Well that's a bit of a mystery, Sir. Nobody really knows. Its just like, well, a major change happens, the garden's rearranged or somethin’ and well .. poof! Suddenly they're gone. Never see em again. Nobody even mentions them. Its like they never happened?
Editor: Then where do they come from Linus. I mean how does a new rose suddenly turn up.
Linus: There's a strange thing Sir. We're all, that's us as has been round ere for a bit y'know Sir, we're always a bit puzzled ‘bout that too Sir. Its science y'know. They all come outta the universities. All bright n shiny an’ looking, like god's only gift to the garden. All the colours an’ shapes y' like: Orange, candy, magenta, mustard, bless me: ... even blue! A blue rose, can you believe it? But ya know? An ‘ere's a funny thing, every year we get a new crop of these things an’ I never seen a crop yet that just fitted natural like into the garden. Its always crossed my mind as strange ya know Sir. Every year its the same thing, an after all these years, there all gone, I'm still ‘ere, an’ bless me Sir, the garden's still the same too Sir.
Editor: Don't they ever survive more than one summer, so to speak, Linus.
Linus: Well, yes, Sir. But its work y' know. Not like real roses. These new ones, they take a lotta helpin’ along. Every autumn, they've got to be heavily pruned and shaped. The soil round their roots ‘as got to be turned over and laid up with nutrients. You're constantly working on ‘em to make ‘em perform.
Editor: You don't like the new ones, Linus.
Linus: Well, they're not natural Sir, not real. I always think that if somets takin’ so much to keep goin’ then, yer have to ask what it is that its tryin' to do. Do yer see?
Editor: So what is a new rose trying to do, Linus?
Linus: Well ‘er's another problem Sir. I know what it's tryin' to do? Its tryin’ to cut out a life for itself. Its easy eh? But what I wonder is if its worth doin’. I mean, if it can't survive on its own, should it?
Editor: But Linus, if you ask that question, can you stop at roses? If men must fly to do business, are they in the right business?
Linus: Well take a look at this specimen, Sir. This ere's an old rose? One o’ nature's beauties. Started life high in the Himalayas, thousands o’ years ago. This beauty grows anywhere you like to stick it in the ground an’ she'll flower season in an’ out, with or without care an’ fussin’. What it takes out of the planet, it surely puts back many times, or nature wouldna held its hand so long. Long after all these show ponies have passed from memory, long after gardeners ‘av been forgotten, there'll still be this old rose and her family. Some things just work an’ you can't take it away from ‘em. You can fiddle an’ try to make it into someat else, but chances are yer goin’ to have to keep on holdin’ its ‘and an’ its goin’ t’ be damn hard work an’ no let up. Do yer see what I mean?
Editor: Are you saying, Linus, that we shouldn't change things?
Linus: Why would you change a rose Sir?
Editor: Perhaps, as you've said, a new market arrives, tastes change, fashions change?
Linus: Depends, I suppose Sir, on what is right. Yer see, this yellow face ere: she's not a rose in the same sense as that old beauty there. She's like the tree that's growed t’ be felled. She's alive so long as she's useful , but only so long as she's useful for makin a living fer old gardeners like me. An’ she's only useful t’ me when there's goin’ t’ be someone out there, an’ enough of em, to buy a piece ter take 'ome or ter buy a grafting t’ stick in their own plot. In other words, 'er life is tied to a really slender chain o’ demand; her future's as fickle as next years fashion colours. Question is not
whether its right t’ change a rose, but is it a rose yer changing the rose into?
Editor: I suppose you could argue the same thing about modern people?
Linus: A real rose don't need to be called a rose to be a rose. It don't need to prove its usefulness t’anybody. Its a rose because its a rose. Why would you want t change it I asks? It don't need to be pruned an shaped. It don't need to be given a flash name. It dont need to have its colours in Marie Claire. Its just beautiful, an its place in nature is fixed and its just right that its so.
Editor: What do you say about modern hybrid people Linus?
Linus: My talks about roses Sir. But I guess its all the same thing. Sometimes I wonder why there seems to be so much trouble to make things different. I wonder ow long fer. 'ow long will it be before women remember they could be mothers? 'ow long it'll be before men remember there was no trouble gettin jobs when the women were avin babies? ow long'll it be before boys start t climb trees again and little girls begin to push their dollies in toy prams.
Editor: You're nostalgic for the old ways Linus?
Linus: Not a bit of it Sir. Pruning this yellow rose is what I'm doing. I'm doin it because there's people out there who want it. An doin that I'm not nostalgic for the wild old brambler. No Sir, Why should I be, that old brambler's going to keep on coming back. Long after I'm in the ground. It'll be nostalgic fer me afore the other way round.
Editor: So you think all these modern changes in society will not last?
Linus: Last? What do you think Sir? How long as any of them lasted so far?
Editor: So you think there are some eternal natural truths, and people just can't change them?
Linus: I ask you Sir? What do you think. How long is it since we were being told we were fighting in a life and death struggle with communism? What happened to it Sir? Went out like a summer breeze. Not so long ago we all ad to do science at school because science was the answer to the meaning of life. What happened to it Sir, just sort of rolled over when everyone was sleepin, an disappeared. What happened to the yellow peril Sir? It seems to me fashions come an go. There's always someone stirrin everybody up to believe they're on death row or someat, an then no one
remembers. An all the time, somewhere the natural stuff is quietly goin on with keepin everythin together.
Editor: You realise you're a heretic Linus?
Linus: Not much Sir. I always say to myself when somethings up, "Listen, old fella," I says, "A year from now you won't even remember you was worried." Besides, everything sorts itself out proper soon enough. You can't stop whats natural, though you can hold it up fer abit. But here's wot I notice Sir. The more yer hold things up, the harder they come back again.
Editor: So you think, Linus that we're in a make believe world of change right now?
Linus: Listen Sir, you mark my words, what ever changes one way can change back the other or off in another direction y'never dreamed to put a stop to..
Editor: But surely, Linus there are things you would want to change.
Linus: Not much of it Sir, except maybe ter get back a bit o' common sense into the world, y'know. But then, I says t' m'self y'know. Y' dont have t' get it back. It never went anywhere. That's why its called common sense. Its just plain what works. Y' dont have t' get it back. That's not the hard work. What's hard is t' be always tryin' t' invent uncommon sense and makin' that work. It won't of course Sir, which is why most of the world's always changin' things. Changin' what they changed yesterday and after t', ... why this afternoon they'll be workin' on changin' what they changed this
mornin'. Y'know Sir, if they was right this mornin' they'd be takin' the time a day this afternnon. I can figure all that. What I can't figure is why they can't ; why they can't learn that just changin' stuff all the time doen't make anything better. Just tenser and more and more unreal. Y'know, I'm what yer'd call old fashioned, I s'pose Sir. Bein' old fashioned is bein' in touch with the truth I say.
Editor: I expect these people your talking about would say what you said to me about the yellow rose. That what they're doing is trying to give people what they want and so they're working harder because what people want is hard to do?
Linus: An' Sir? ain't that the problem, just like me kneeling my tight old joints to prune shape into a thing that's got no right to be here, so most of the world's turning itself inside out to make things that a got no right to be here too. On my test of what's real an' right, that takes account of just about everything that most people are doing in this country this afternoon. Eh, Course that's true. Damned inconvenient to be sure, but its right anyway. Listen Sir, since the beginnin' of time peoples 'ave been runnin' up a war or so every generation. Its as natural as anything. Like a heavy snowfall in the wrong season, sorts things out and nature decides whose got the best chance to make a go of it. Not any more they say. Instead everyone out there's oldin' on, crossin' their legs, workin' longer hours to make things that'll fall over if they don't keep at it, breathin' faster an' faster, gettin' tighter an' tighter in their stomach muscles, an' tryin' harder an' 'arder to keep the lid on an' 'eld down tight. An' if they get their mouths open through their tight jaw muscles fer long enough they'll tell you that everything's OK cause they know it is because they can go out an' buy more an' more stuff. Badges of courage I call it. Badges o' courage.
Editor: Well, I think most people would agree with you that life is too stressful, but I'm not sure many people would be ready to trade their badges of courage for less stress?
Linus: I reckon that yellow rose wouldn't want to go without the hard pruning I give it too, Sir. If your fashioned into something that makes no sense, yer pleased to have to put up with pain, an' hopelessness. Thats the proof of what I'm sayin' Sir. If its yer preference to be doin' stuff that makes no sense, then I says, yer must be crazy. Its OK to be crazy, mind, but its not what I want fer myself or my roses. An' I ask you, yer gotta make yer own choice on this, when the next big snowfall comes ... do you want a be a modern hybrid or an old beauty?
Editor: But surely Linus, you don't really believe people can turn their backs on all the wonders of our modern age? Surely you don't believe they should repudiate the sacrifices made to create these wonders?
Linus: Wonders, Sir?
Editor: Yes Linus. The wonders of motor cars and aeroplanes; the wonders of television and computers, the wonders of photographing Venus or curing polio?
Linus: There's no wonder in it Sir. When you do the things that people do today, and you make the sacrifices you talked about, there's no wonder in it at all. People ''av not created energy, Sir; or flight; Venus in all her wonder's got nout to do with photographs. These are not wonders Sir. These are badges of courage an' self importance. If you want to see a wonder Sir, I'll show you 'ow a little stick can become a new thing of remarkable beauty, I'll show 'ow the things that will most touch your inner truth Sir, don't need to go anywhere, but can smile into the sun, an quiver in the gentlest breeze, send little bees into a frenzy of desire, an' drop a beautiful woman in admiration an appreciation of you Sir. I'll teach you 'ow a perfect rose in this corner can seem to change ideas with another over there Sir, outta sight an outta human earshot. Indeed Sir, there's none among the fine things o' people you can describe that'll fill me - or anyone with the sense or their own beauty an perfection - as this little bud is goin' to do, Sir. An' there's the greatest wonder of all.
Editor: Then Linus, taking your proposition, if I think I understand it, - that what most of us are doing is like rolling a boulder uphill, and then claiming it for an achievement, - where is our future?
Linus: There's only one future I can see for it Sir. Yer better keep that boulder chocked. An the higher yer get it, the more time yer better spend watching them chocks. Indeed Sir, there's only two ways out: sooner or later that boulder's goin' to do what boulders do from high up, or you're goin to get to the point of tension that keepin' the boulder from gettin' away from you an' destroyin' everything, is going to be more important than gettin' it up any higher.
Editor: You're worse than a heretic Linus. You're a pessimist.
Linus: Not at all Sir, I'm a gardener. I garden. In my garden I make arrangements with nature an' I get a good result when I let nature call the lead. I also have to make arrangements in spite a nature sometimes an' when I do that, it makes me to understand 'ow much power is in it an 'ow little is in me. To be a gardener, Sir, yer learn to work out where is the big truth, not just the little bits. An' as a gardener, Sir, y' learn to love it with yer whole mind an soul, Sir.
That's why I garden Sir. Fer it makes sense. It makes sense of everything. An that's 'ow I know what's right Sir.
Editor: Well then, Linus, I write for company managers. Men and women who, for the most, part wrestle honestly for the best way forward for humanity and for the people they have responsibility for. These are men and women charged with the duty to make hard decisions that often affect all of us; and to make them in ways that produce the greatest good. As you've said, much of what our business and government society are trying to do is fast changing and uncertain. They're searching for better ways always to benefit our lives and secure our futures. What would you say to my company managers Linus?
Linus: Just one thing Sir. I'd tell em, to get to know their roses. Once you know your roses, Sir, the hard work's out of it
© Chris Moloney 1998