At the end of the post Original Knowledge – where does it come from? I concluded that nature is our teacher. We can only really learn things from nature. Somebody else can teach us something but, if we trace it all the way back, what they are teaching us could only have been derived by correctly observing and understanding nature. This concept made we wonder if we could learn by just observing something as simple as a tomato plant? I think the answer is yes!
The humble tomato plant
I started to think about this topic because we’ve been recently trying to grow tomatoes in our backyard. Trying to get a good crop of tomatoes. Trying to get them to grow healthily. Watching their progress avidly. Then, one day, I thought “well, if nature is our teacher, what can I learn from this natural tomato plant?” and, as it turns out, we can learn quite a lot.
To get good fruit, we need good soil and water
It doesn’t take long to learn (if it wasn’t already known/assumed) that to get good tomatoes we need healthy, nutritious soil and the right amount of clean water. The tomato plant must be able to get the nutrients it needs from the soil, and we may have to add mulch or compost to get that nutrient level right. There’s no way we’d spread our toxic waste around the bottom of the plant and hope that it will still bear good fruit.
For our own lives to bear good fruit, we have to tend to our “soil” and make sure our bodies get the necessary nutrients. Obviously, this means that the food we eat must be good for us and contain lots of nutrition. It must be good for our “soil” and not just look good and/or taste good. We won’t pollute our “soil” with toxins. We couldn’t imagine taking some toxic, unnatural chemical and spreading all around our “soil” and hoping that our lives progress in a positive way.
When we look at the ingredients on some “food” we’re considering eating and see some nasty chemical like Yellow 5 artificial coloring, we can ask ourselves – “would we pour a litre of Yellow 5 around the base of a tomato plant and expect it to produce good fruit afterwards?”. Obviously not. Considerations like this should be enough for us to eliminate artificial chemicals from our diets.
We don’t expect the tomato plant to live forever
We look after our tomato plants so that they will be healthy and strong and bear good fruit. However, we don’t expect that they’ll live forever. They will have their time of health and production of good fruit, and then we know they’ll die. This doesn’t concern us because we know that plenty of new young tomato plants will grow. It’s also an interesting fact that the dead tomato plants become part of the compost that will feed future tomato plants.
We are transient. We have our time of health and production of good fruit, and then we’ll die. This is completely natural. Wanting to live forever does not fit in the natural scheme of the world. Plenty of younger people are coming along behind us. At the end of our lives, we should have left behind some things that will benefit the younger generations.
We don’t expect anything else from our tomato plants except a good crop of tomatoes. There’s nothing we could do that could make our tomato plant produce zucchinis, for example.
We are meant to produce a particular type of fruit. It’s not right for us to try and produce a different type of fruit. Our job is to produce the best possible examples of the fruit we were designed to produce. The garden was designed to produce a large range of fruits, but our job is produce great versions of our specific fruit.
We must be the best tomato plant we can be
We can’t be a pineapple tree. If we try, we’ll be a very bad one. We need to understand what type of fruit we’re meant to produce (similar to Joseph Cambell’s idea of “following our bliss” – see Finding Joe) and then do the best we can at producing that. We shouldn’t want to be something else. We shouldn’t be envious of someone else producing their own fruit as best they can. We have to play our part in nature as well as we can. By producing our best fruit (partly through looking after our soil and keeping our plant healthy), we’re making nature more beautiful and more wonderful. We should do this to the best of our ability for as long as we can, but be happy knowing that this existence is not forever. Younger people must take over in due time.
Nature is trying to teach us
There is so much to learn from the humble tomato plant, and these plants are just sitting there, right before our eyes. Nature has examples for us to follow everywhere. Imagine what we can learn if we just stop and look. What is normal in nature? How does that relate to us? The lessons are all there in plain sight.
When I start looking around, I’m surprised (but shouldn’t have been) that others have also learnt from tomato plants. See one example here.
Can you see anything else we can learn from a tomato plant? I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment. Thanks,