“There’s something growing in my raised beds”, said my wife. “I think it may be cucumbers or tomatoes from last year coming up again. I’m not sure.”
Me: “So I guess you are going to have to wait until they grow a bit to really tell what they are. Then you’ll know”.
And so they grew. Big, leafy and scary like they weren’t waiting around for permission. They didn’t look like tomatoes. Or cucumbers. Then my wife got the app on her phone called “Picture This” which is the latest entry of visual recognition software into the phone world.“Try it” said a friend of hers. “You’ll be amazed. It will actually recognize things. You can take pictures of those plants and it will tell you exactly if they are weeds or something else.” And so she did.
She took a picture of her raised beds. The icon on the phone portrayed a thorny plant with purple flowers. “Cirsium heterophyllum” it said, a weed otherwise known as the common thistle.
Knowing the name settled things. It put to rest any illusions we were having about what was growing in our garden. Weeds, apparently. Now that they were big enough, it was easier to segregate them, and to pull them out for the burn pile.
It’s a real life version of the Parable of the Tares Jesus told in Matthew 13:24–30.
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.
It’s about recognizing what is growing up around you and being able to discern the good from the bad. You can’t always tell right away, but ultimately things show themselves for what they are. The weeds of course, are harmful. They should not be there. Worse, they choke out the possibility for the good plants to thrive. In your garden they will cause confusion and chaos.
Weeds are of course, a euphamism for negative and harmful social dynamics, what the Bible calls Sin. Leaving them to grow unnamed is a bad idea. Someone should call them out for what they are so that they can be dealt with, so healthy things can grow instead.
Because stories are never really new, it also reminded me of the story of the Baobab trees in The Little Prince. Beware the Boababs. The seeds look innocent but once grown up, they will blow apart your planet. The author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry told the story not because it was cute. He was really talking about Nazism, the bad idea of the day. It looked quite innocent in its infancy, enough that Hitler made the cover of Time magazine, and had the heady support of such world luminaries as Henry Ford. Only when National Socialism bore fruit, did it truly show up for the bad idea it really was.
Reading the newspapers, we seem to be there. Lots of loose talk from people who do not have any deep appreciation for their own history. Like the Parable of the Tares and the story of the Baobabs, it’s perhaps time to find new ways to make people wake up to old truths.
It should be self evident that some ideas are bad. When people are afraid to speak up, it is to the detriment of us all. To be afraid of words, is to be under the throes of fascism. There’s something about calling a thing what it is, that defines, contains it, and makes it manageable. Words have power that way.
It is why Jesus commanded demons to speak their name. Giving a proper definition makes things manageable. It allows you to defeat evil, and evil ideas that have not yet borne fruit. Saying what something is also makes it apparent to all, in the manner of a public service. Clear labels might sound the alarm that a bit of pruning needs to be done.
The phrase “Say my name”.. got currency in the hit TV series Breaking Bad. It’s when Walter becomes his evil alter-ego, Heisenberg. When it’s time to call it, to show the cartels who is really the new boss in town, the dialogue is short and sweet. He makes them put it into words, the moment when everything really becomes clear.
Walt: Say my name.
Declan: You’re Heisenberg.
Walt: You’re goddamn right.