The term ‘organic’ seems to be moving quickly into disfavor among many philosophers and theologians. The impression I get is that the term is most often evoked with a sense of nostalgia and naivete with respect to how we can best understand and respond to situations (and the co-option of the term for less than desirable purposes cannot help). Whether this reaction comes from the pushback against ‘localism’ over at AUFS or the apocalyptic theology of Doerge, Kerr, Siggelkow et. al. it seems that ‘organic’ is not the right mode of engagement. This is a reductionistic preface but a preface that should indicate our ongoing desire to find the next and better mode of inquiry. That is fine and I am not looking to go back. I am just setting this up for one simple observation.
I was given a plant. It is in my office. This plant seems at once to be both dying and regenerating itself. At times it has beamed with robust health and at other times it teetered and I have not known what will come of it (though I know what should come of a plant). More often than not I do not know what to do. At one point branches were snapping. The giant leaves seemed too heavy or was it that the branch was too weak or was it that they had simply grown to completion. I would grow anxious. Too much or not enough of any number of things can spell the end. I rushed to the Sunday School supply room and came back with pipe cleaners and popsicle sticks trying to create splints to see if they could heal. But I had to let them go. Out of the three only one sprouted a new leaf.
This all reminded me of my childhood on the farm. I could not farm. In my bones I despised farming because I would work an already too wet field and see dark clouds roll in from the West miles away on the prairies bringing more rain. It made me ill. So I left the farm unconsciously thinking there were places where I could have more control.
And I found these places in regular paychecks and relatively clear job expectations. But now several times a day I look over at that plant and I do not know its fate. Again, I am trying to be very conscious of nostalgia or paternalistic tendencies in my thinking. I suppose the only point I am trying to make is that if someone wishes to move beyond the organic metaphor they should have made sure they sat long enough with it in all its precariousness and anxiety . . . and beauty.