The previous bDharma contemplation, A Hillside Garden, was steeped in place. This time, we will dive into gardening in the fourth dimension. To set the scene, let us consider a parable lifted from our Jewish relations:
There is a story in the Midrash of an old guy observed planting a fig tree. When asked if he expected to live long enough to consume the fruits of his labor, he replied: “I was born into a world flourishing with ready pleasures. First, my ancestors planted for me, and now I plant for my children…”
There is some Faith that there will be a future involved here. That future for humankind currently is uncertain. I take from this an aspiration to provide for that future should it come to pass. We not only wish for there to be a future, but we wish to offer provisions to make that future more livable.
Time is the fourth dimension in that it makes change possible and defines existence in a three-dimensional space. Time is also part of a coordinate system called spacetime, which combines space and time into a single continuum. However, time is not a spatial dimension like the other three. It is usually interpreted as separate and apart from the spatial dimensions we see around us Time also connects generations.
Here is an example from the garden here in California. We are in-residence for this academic year providing support for a 92-year-old trying to age in place in the family’s ancestral home. I am trying to offer some beauty to the coming generations. Beauty is food for the soul. I know of a rare flower. I tracked down a grower and had one sent. This flower needs a compatible spot and have considered where that vantage point might be. The idea is to have a living thing of such exquisite beauty that it forces people to pause and consider what a fantastic world we are a part of—providing beauty for coming generations to feed intergenerational souls.
Our indigenous relatives have taken this further and included a Seventh-Generation Rule in their decision-making. The Seventh-Generation rule is how Native Americans made decisions for the future. The term Native Americans is a broad spectrum that contains many nations and tribes; each nation and tribe has its unique traditions. Still, it seems most of them have a shared way of being with consideration for the future. A long time ago, the Iroquois people, a confederation of Native American tribes, proclaimed that leaders must look and listen for the whole people’s welfare and always have in view the present and the coming generations: That the thickness of their skin shall be seven spans to protect against the anger, offensive actions and criticism that may affect making the decisions. The seven spans are interpreted as the Seven Generations principle.
Sometimes concealment is best done in plain sight. That we look out for and provide for those who have not taken birth and who are underserved since they have no vote is worthy of deeper appreciation. In our tradition this is called Terma. We are inter-connected, even across time.