Thursday, November 2, 2006

78. Green lawns are a luxury

The aesthetics of that, which we find pleasurable, range from classical music and photography to beautiful landscapes and fine art. In between are numerous cultural and economic differences and preferences. While no one has the right to decide for others what they find attractive, there is an argument that all aesthetics are a luxury. That is, they are a part of our disposable income which we pursue for little other reason than we find them personally appealing.

I contemplated this idea while cutting the grass for what I hope will be the final time of the year. I was noticing the wretched condition of our lawn, which coincided with the unexplainable desire to improve its condition. I reflected in depth about this subconscious longing, since I can find no practical reason to indulge in what many people may find aesthetically pleasing, namely "green grass."

We planted our own lawn about six years ago, which has gone through cycles of spirited growth, drought and the invasion of uninvited species of imposter grasses. We have sparsely maintained the traditional method of lawn care, that is, consistent watering and seasonal fertilization. Even then, rarely do I engage in this activity without noting to myself, in amusement, the sound bite I heard a couple years ago describing the seemingly inane human activity of spending money to fertilize and water the grass, only to create the chore of cutting it. It is not that I would not like to have a lush lawn, free of crabgrass and dead patches of turf; rather, it is that I have a hard time justifying it as a worthy cost of disposable income.

Certainly I understand that many people enjoy doing yard work, as I do myself. And as I mentioned in the introduction, I respect the right for everyone to appreciate whatever it is they find pleasing. However, I wonder if it is truly an appreciation that they are engaging in. Do people really consider why they appreciate a lush lawn? Is it aesthetically pleasing or is it a measure of tradition and expectation?

I think that people often do what they think they are supposed to do, an idea I will develop further in future writings as the "scripted life." Living the "scripted life" is a product of doing things that are either traditional or as a measure of expectations- without really considering why those things are being done. It is also a product of doing things without considering alternatives.

I have commented to my wife about some of the more obsessive people dedicated to lawn care that they will have nothing else to write on their tombstone other than, "Here lies John Smith, he had a great lawn." Recognizing it as an insensitive comment, my point is hopefully obvious. Everything we do, and everything we spend our money on, is at a cost of every other thing we could do with our time and money. I bet many people who want to have a nice lawn do so because they are "supposed" to have a nice lawn, rather than because of its intrinsic value. The cost of such a lawn can be expensive, considering the lengths some people will go to. Not only are some people will give up a large amount of time, they are willing to employ professional lawn companies and install sprinkler systems. To pay that price for "green grass," is, in my opinion, a woeful luxury. The idea is a slanted socioeconomic premise when one considers that many people cannot afford to purchase food or keep gas in the car, while, in juxtaposition, others throw money out into the lawn for the brief visual pleasure of a steady shade of green and the consistent shape of its vegetative blades. Further societal debate would include the wasteful implications of watering the yard when some parts of the world lack clean drinking water and the environmental aspect of overzealously throwing lawn clippings into our landfills.

"Green grass" is one of possibly many things we take for granted without considering the real reason why we find those things worthy as a part of our lives. It is might also be one of many things we do without considering alternatives. For example, would the time and money spent on its endeavor be better spent on philanthropic causes? Imagine, for a moment, if every homeowner in the country donated the money spent on their lawns to charity.

There seems to be a subconscious value placed on philosophy and ceremony, aesthetic and otherwise, which we often act on in life without considering its actual value, our real desires, possible alternatives or potential consequences. Is a little crabgrass, in lieu of say, cancer research, really so bad?

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