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A Parable
By Robert Newman

Once upon a time, in an unfortunate land, there were gardeners who lived by whatever they could grow in their gardens. Unfortunately they knew very little about cultivation, and couldn't distinguish between useful plants and useless ones. Even worse, their supply of seeds, which they gathered from everywhere indiscriminately, mostly gave rise to useless or even poisonous plants. So, they were in a very bad condition.

One day, from a far-away land known for its wonderful gardens, came a Old Gardener with a huge bag of seeds. He had gathered these seeds from the finest gardens in his land, and had vowed to spread them far and wide for the benefit of all the people of the world. He went from field to field in the unfortunate land, pulled up the existing plants, and cast handfuls of seeds from his bag onto the ground. Then he disappeared as mysteriously as he had come.

The plants that came up from the seeds that the Old Gardener sowed were astonishing to all the inhabitants of the unfortunate land. They were exotic and strange, and many were breathtakingly beautiful. The most wonderful thing was that most of them were useful, good for food or medicine, or producing lovely flowers. The people were intoxicated with their good fortune, except for some who were so small-minded that they couldn't accept the strangeness of it all. Their friends tried to persuade them to stay, but they went elsewhere and returned to their old ways and problems. But those who remained were full of joy.

Now, a few of the new plants, due to conditions of soil and climate being different in the new land, did not grow properly there. In fact, they were as useless and poisonous to the people as were most of the plants they used to grow before the Old Gardener came. But the people refused to accept this. They chose to believe that the Old Gardener who had brought so many wonderful things could not possibly have brought anything imperfect. So, they treated all the plants as if they were equally good. They gathered seeds from the useless and poisonous plants and sowed them along with seeds from the good plants, and the composition of the garden remained the same year after year.

It was bad enough that the people wasted their land and energy growing useless plants. But when the leaders insisted that even the poisonous plants had to be eaten by everybody, regardless of their ill effects, the real trouble began. People began to get seriously ill, and many of them disappeared. They were replaced by people from other places who were charmed by the exotic beauty of the gardens. But most of the newcomers also sickened and disappeared, and so there was a constant flux in the population. After many years, the only people who were left of the original gardeners were a few of the strongest leaders, their blind followers, and those who were too sick to leave.

Of course, many conferences were held to determine the causes of the problems that were being experienced in this society. The only useful ideas to arise pointed to the need to discriminate between the plants in the gardens, but those who proposed these ideas were demonized and exiled from the community for daring to suggest that the Old Gardener could have brought anything that could possibly be useless or harmful to the people. So the situation did not improve at all.

One group of people indeed decided that nothing that the Old Gardener had brought was actually good at all. They thought that the beauty of the gardens and the benefits of the good plants were just illusions, so they followed in the footsteps of the original group of small-minded unbelievers and returned to the bad old ways.

However, some of the most intelligent people took a supply of the new seeds and went to other fields and cultivated them. They carefully discriminated between the plants that they grew, and discarded those that had ill effects. Their gardens became more and more beautiful and healthful, and they continually blessed the Old Gardener who had made it all possible with his gift of seeds.

Robert Newman

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