The Ancient Modern

Life Untended /  Joshua Alan Sturgill

My life appears to me like an overrun, long-abandoned garden.

The soil is rich; plants grow in abundance; stones for solid building lie scattered everywhere.

But the wisdom and skill to restore the garden has been lost.

How to tell the weeds from the herbs?
How to enrich and sustain the ground?
How to cut, stack and mortar the stone?

Without these skills, I am dependent on others’ labor, on others’ goods and on others’ standards. These others, moreover, are not members of a family or community, but far-off landlords, traders, salesmen.

Because I have no skill to invigorate and tend my own land, my own self, I work for the landlords. I internalizedand now embodythe surrounding philosophies and entertainments and standards because I never questioned them. I didn’t know they could be questioned.

The landlords have arranged that I should labor for them on projects often destructive and ultimately meaningless. I work in exchange for food from someone else’s landfor foreign, nutrition-less foodunconnected to the present, the creative, the Real.

Ideologies which I did not examine, and which no longer square with the givenness of life, cannot become a Culture; foods which I did not cooperate with the land to grow, and which passed through a series of machines, cannot become a Sacrament.

All around me: barren thought and sterile food:


Food I eat without reference to my mind, and thoughts I think without reference to my body. My own and my community’s struggle and success, grief and gain, are not present in these foods. My gender and my mortality and my unique personhood are not in these ideologies.

So, every day from an air-conditioned room, through a triple-paned window, with plastic cup of chemically-sweetened beverage in my hand, I stare out at the long-abandoned garden.

And between rounds of meaningless work periodically relieved by meaningless entertainment, I daydream about the wisdom and the skill I might one day rediscover.

Wisdom and skill that would make my wider life fruitful and nourishing once again for family and my community. I long to make my life garden


A verdant and fertile soul, like a healthy and ordered garden, gives the individual an unshakable strength, and the whole cosmos sighs with relief.

All poetry and supplementary material: copyright 2020 by Joshua Alan Sturgill. All rights reserved.

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