Erich Fromm, in To Have Or To Be?, contrasts the two following works. The first is by Tennyson:

Flower in a crannied wall,

I pluck you out of the crannies,

I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,

Little flower—but if I could understand

What you are, root and all, and all in all,

I should know what God and man is.

The second, a haiku in translation, is by Basho:

When I look carefully

I see the nazuna blooming

By the hedge!

Fromm observes “The difference is striking. Tennyson reacts to the flower by wanting to have it. He ‘plucks’ it ‘root and all.’ And while he ends with an intellectual speculation about the flower’s possible function for his attaining insight into the nature of God and man [sic], the flower itself is killed as a result of his interest in it. Tennyson, as we see him in his poem, may be compared to the Western scientist who seeks the truth by means of dismembering life.”

It is interesting, by the way, that the opinion-formers in the East have embraced Western science.

The Bible, in Genesis 1:26, quoth:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

(New International Version)

It goes without saying that Western culture is what it is in large part because of the varied teachings of the Bible. As a direct consequence, the death of countless numbers of animals (humans included) has been justified.

It also goes without saying that Western civilisation should not be singled out for admonishment.

It doesn’t go without saying that the plant known to the Japanese as the nazuna is known to the anglophonic countries as shepherd’s purse.

Comments 1

Leave a Reply