I will not leave this yard until The Clump is out of the ground. I have an hour before my wife comes out and asks for help entertaining the kids. Before I started, I was sure an hour would be more than enough time to dislodge The Clump, but after twenty minutes of hacking away at this mountain of roots I am not so sure.
Traditionally the root metaphor has been a positive one. Roots anchor us to the ground. They offer support and nourishment. To be rooted means to become firmly established, settled, or entrenched. The sun heats up my active body and my sweaty shirt clings to my shoulders I am in the middle of a moment of clarity. It’s a great feeling to watch an epiphany come on. The world slows down and everything appears sharp and in focus. The lesson floats down from above and rises from the ground to touch everything within and around you. You are enveloped by the entire universe explaining itself.
I have found my pace. I am slowly punching The Clump from all sides. A symmetrical attack, slow and plodding. I am exposing the tangle of roots entrenched in the red clay. Feels like I am chopping down an inverted tree. I respect The Clump, but can begin to see its demise. Stab the shovel. Twist. Pull out soil. Clear roots with hands. Never underestimate machines made of flesh.
The roots of most vascular plant species enter into symbiosis with certain fungi to form mycorrhizas, and a large range of other organisms including bacteria also closely associate with roots. The parts of a root are the xylem, the epidermis, the cortex, the root cap, the root hairs, the phloem, and the cambium.I am not concerned. I am an apocalypse.
People who do not think of the earth as a living thing have never dug their fingers through her hair. Touched her skin and examined her from the inside. They have never tried to yank her veins from her flesh with nothing but their hands.
The architecture of a root system can be considered in a similar way to above-ground architecture of a plant—i.e. in terms of the size, branching and distribution of the component parts. There are angels in the architecture. In roots, the architecture of fine roots and coarse roots can both be described by variation in topology and distribution of biomass within and between roots. Having a balanced architecture allows fine roots to exploit soil efficiently around a plant, but the “plastic” nature of root growth allows the plant to then concentrate its resources where nutrients and water are more easily available. A balanced coarse root architecture, with roots distributed relatively evenly around the stem base, is necessary to provide support to larger plants and trees.
The cerebral cortex of the human brain contains roughly 15–33 billion neurons, perhaps more, depending on gender and age, linked with up to 10,000 synaptic connections each. Each cubic millimeter of cerebral cortex contains roughly one billion synapses. These neurons communicate with one another by means of long protoplasmic fibers called axons, which carry trains of signal pulses called action potentials to distant parts of the brain or body and target them to specific recipient cells.The Clump is alive. Dug in deep. Survival and growth its only goals. The roots entangle themselves in the ground like a cancer. Sucking. Absorbing. Consuming everything. Stab the shovel. Twist. Pull out soil. Clear roots with hands. Never underestimate machines made of flesh.
Then I saw it. This new more sinister metaphor for roots. The Clump as culture:
culture cul·ture (kŭl'chər)But this definition was too literal. There in front of me as I hack away methodically, I no longer feel like I am eradicating a cluster of roots from my garden. No I am stamping out every trace of culture and history and baggage and values and beliefs and religion and every stem of decay that has us rooted to the ground.
from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning "to cultivate."
1. The growing of microorganisms, tissue cells, or other living matter in a specially prepared nutrient medium.
2. Such a growth or colony, as of bacteria.
I see each severed root freed from the ground as a disappearing connection we human beings make to help us feel safe from our fear. I could see clearly the traditional metaphor of roots as anchors was no longer viable. These roots and the culture they represent are more like chains. Cancers. Suffocating leashes. I apologize for the mixing of metaphors, but I hope I am clear. I saw this clump of tangled roots as the shackles holding us back from our true evolutionary path. Every tangential tuber a misstep, a trap needing to be freed.
Last year in class, we were discussing the importance of memory and history. We agreed that people need to have a connection with not only their own past, but also a connection with the history of their families, country and religion. In short, we spoke about through culture we learn from the mistakes of others and learn and grow. We were all in agreement, until one girl raised her hand slowly and asked, “But what if these memories, these connections, this history is what is holding us back. What if culture forces us to simply repeat the past blindly in circles? Can’t we just erase the past and start over? Our histories and cultures don’t seem to have done us much good.”
Her words have taken refuge in my head, and this morning as I attacked The Clump, I could clearly understand what she meant. This clump of roots was getting in the way of my plans for the garden. I want a smooth flower/vegetable patch. I have grandiose plans for the space they occupy.
Can culture and everything it represents be the same? We need a new outlook on life. A new vision. A new patch where we can begin to plant new seeds. Our collective global garden no longer needs deeply entrenched roots. We need to remove the Global Clump. No more religion. No more nationalism. No more worship of money and commerce. No more corporations. No more stoning women to death for the crimes of men. No more homophobia. No more female circumcision. No more oil. No more salvation or redemption. No more borders or passports or Arizona. No more pundits, experts, or preachers. No more schools, standardized tests, or curricula. No more governments. No more sacraments, creeds or ceremonies. No more traditions. No more melting pots. No more globalization, exploitation, or racism. No more.
Each swing of the shovel exposed The Clump for what it was- an outdated bundle of customs, so deeply rooted in our collective consciousness that it was destroying our garden. I yanked and pulled, sweat dripping from my brow. I was on my knees, covered in red clay clawing away every connection I had to these worthless traditions. Each pull made The Clump a bit more loose. I could feel it shifting. I was about to float away. No longer Iranian, American, male or female.
Stab the shovel. Twist. Pull out soil. Clear roots with hands. Soon there would only be an empty void. The remains of civilization scattered about the abyss, ready to be swept away and buried, making room for the new plants. The new ideas. The new future…
Not a bad way to spend an hour. We will call this round a draw. The Clump, who is no more put up a good fight and made me think, but in the end it is sitting in the trash and the bed where it was entrenched is ready for clean up. Too bad The Global Clump has barely budged in years. Try it. Take a swing. Free yourself of a few cultural shackles and see how it feels...