Being useful, decorative or beneficial?


“What’s the point in growing something you can’t eat?” This was the rather pointed question put to me when I said I had grown gourds that are inedible, but decorative. I could, of course, have responded by saying what about flowers, shrubs, or trees? In fact the whole concept of a garden that is meant to be enjoyed gives the answer. 

However, the issue about whether my life is useful or not is one that I often wrestle with. I sometimes find myself in a very utilitarian way wondering if the good I do (or hope I am doing) outweighed the drain on the earth’s resources that I represent. This is probably the opposite of trusting in grace, and betrays the Protestant work ethic at its worst. 

Going back to the gourds, they are meant to be decorative. I bought the seeds when visiting the Château de Villandry, in the Loire region of France. (I did not  realise at the time that they were inedible!) But the display of the gourds, in a wonderful range of colours, was a delight. I am very happy now that they can decorate the garden,  both front and back – there are dozens of them! I am also relieved that my butternut squash have been prolific, with two dozen large squashes. So my productive desire has been satisfied. 

The importance of having decorative elements in our life is also revealed in the arts. Yes, paintings, plays, books, sculptures can convey a message. They can challenge our perceptions, or inspire us, and give us a new way of looking at the world. But the beneficial effect is not confined to their value in changing our perceptions. They can simply be beautiful.  

Is there a place for people simply to be, whether or not they are beautiful? I am trying to tell myself, that I do not have to be useful in order to be valuable as a person. I still want my life to be beneficial for other people and the future of our world.  But, do I have to stay on the treadmill of productivity? 

Being realistic and knowing myself, I think I do want to be useful and beneficial even if I am not decorative! But there are times and places when I can be, just be, and be appreciated for just being. That is true for you too, I hope.

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