The Lesson of The Garden Club

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that there exists a very old and well-respected gardening club that you’ve taken an interest in joining. This club tells potential members that it helps to make good gardeners better and they can become ‘master gardeners’ if they are willing to put in the work and advance in levels. You don’t mind the idea of doing work if you become a better gardener in the process,  so you petition for membership and gain admission.

The introduction to each level is very ceremonial and there are different lessons about gardening which are central to them. At the first level, you are officially made a gardener and are taught about laying the foundation of gardening, which is tilling the soil. After the ceremony, a lot of members come and shake your hand and tell you how excited they are to have a new member and then you are introduced to your mentor who will teach you all the memory work about tilling the soil which is relevant to this level. The information from the memory work is valuable but you’re a bit perplexed that you don’t do any actual tilling. You finally ask your mentor when you’ll get to the actual work of tilling the soil and he just smiles and tells you to be patient. Fair enough.

Time passes and you finally memorize all the tilling questions and answers and recite everything to all the other members. A date is set and you go through another ceremony, this one is about planting seeds and you learn there is more memory work that needs to be learned. Privately, you ask a few members that you’ve befriended how you’re supposed to plant seeds when you haven’t even tilled any soil yet. They look at you strangely for a moment and tell you that you’ll understand everything after the next level.

You learn the questions and answers and recite them just like you did before. You go through the very impressive ceremonies of the last level and you become a ‘master gardener’. You have finally reached the highest level within the club and you are now entitled to learn everything that this club can teach you! There are some questions and answers to learn about harvesting,  which was the theme of the ceremony, but your mentor assures you that you’ll have it learned in time for the election of officers, which is right around the corner. You’re excited but something still seems missing. You ask the president what you’re supposed to harvest when you haven’t planted anything and he responds with something along the lines of “you’ll get out of it what you put into it”.

So you take the president’s words to heart and you begin ‘putting into’ the club. Months pass by and frustration begins to set in. The memory work that you’ve learned hasn’t made you a better gardener, despite assurances that it would, and you’ve attended several stated meetings but you begin to realize that nothing is being taught or presented which will help you become a better gardener. Maybe you take it upon yourself to share what you’ve learned about gardening at this point, maybe you don’t. One month the stated meeting rolls around and you decide that you’ll sit this one out…you tell yourself that it’s just this once but it becomes the norm and you rarely attend club meetings anymore. You still pay your dues so you don’t get suspended, after all, you worked hard to become a ‘master gardener’ and the dues are so cheap that you can keep your membership without feeling obligated to contribute or attend.

Years go by and you eventually receive a letter from the club telling you that it’s going to shut down due to no participation or retention. “Well it’s no wonder.” you think to yourself as you toss the letter in the trash, “Why would anyone be interested in a gardening club that doesn’t ever talk about gardening?”.

 

 

 

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