The Parable of the Gardens

Once there was a village. Here the people had been feuding for many years and all the gardens were vandalised, the gates broken, the sheds burnt down. Finally the people came to their senses and decided to end their feud and try to put everything back as it was. For over a year they worked pulling up the weeds, mowing the grass, repairing the gates, building new sheds, planting flowers and shrubs. Finally everything was as it used to be, beautiful and in order. As the years passed though, people forgot what they had been through. They forgot what it was like to live in ruined gardens.

Now on the edge of the village lived a wealthy merchant in a great mansion. It had beautiful gardens and great estates. This merchant was so wealthy he employed many gardeners to work his estates. He did not bother to take an interest in the details of how his estates were run, he left it to his staff. All he knew was that when he looked out of his window on a Sunday he saw his beautiful gardens and was very proud of himself for having gardens so much more beautiful that anyone else in the village.

Well this merchant got the idea he had made a great discovery. He thought he had discovered that if you just leave your garden to grow wild it will become more beautiful than anyone else’s garden. He was very proud of his great discovery and always boasted about it to all his friends.

One day the merchant found out that his gardeners were spending lots of time in the village. They were lending the villagers his brand new lawn mowers, giving them bedding plants and shrubs from his garden, and teaching them all their skills. When he found this out he was angry, what silly men he thought, the villagers need none of this! He called his head gardener and shouted at him. He insisted that the gardeners worked for him, he was richer than the gardener so he knew more about everything than the gardener did. It was silly to give the villagers things they did not need, that were wasted on them. He paid the gardener’s wages and he said no! So it stopped.

Instead he sent letters to all the villagers telling them about his great discovery. How they wasted so much effort and hard work tending their gardens when it was all unnecessary. The villagers saw his great and beautiful estates, so they believed all he said. So now they ceased work. They set up deck chairs in their gardens and sat around all day. The grass grew tall, weeds invaded the flower beds, unpainted gates grew rusty, and sheds collapsed lacking repairs.

The older gardeners seeing this were appalled. They went around the village telling people to cut the grass, pull out the weeds and mend their sheds. The villagers found them annoying they jeered them, threw stones at them and drove them out of the gardens. Some of the old gardeners were found murdered in the country lanes, others hanged themselves in despair, but most sat in the village pub all day drinking and seething in silence because they could not stand to see the gardens ruined but could do nothing about it. When the merchant heard about this he smiled and said, “Good! The villagers are learning.”

Eventually the gardens became so overgrown and unkempt the villagers could not stand to stay in them anymore. One day the merchant looked out of his window and saw strange people wandering about in his garden. “Who are they?” He asked his head gardener. “Why, they are just visitors come to admire your garden.” The merchant was pleased and proud, “Good! Let’s have an open day every week when people can come and appreciate my wonderful gardens!”

One day the merchant went away on business. When he came back he was horrified to find dozens of people camping in his gardens. They lived in tents, they emptied the plants out of his glass houses and lived in them as shelters. They dug ditches across his lawns to use as toilets. They pulled down the sheds and storage huts to burn as fire wood. He was enraged by the destruction to his beautiful estates and brought all his servants together to drive these people out of his gardens.

The villagers were dispersed to their ruined gardens where they began to fight with each other all the time. After that it was no longer safe for the merchant and his servants to venture off the estate into the village. The merchant never blamed himself for anything that happened. He just cursed the villagers for their ingratitude after all he had done for them.

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