19 August 2009
The Curious Garden
Author/Illustrator: Peter Brown
On the surface, this quietly beautiful book is about a boy who discovers and cultivates a garden in the middle of the city. Through persistence (think The Carrot Seed on Miracle-Gro), the garden thrives and takes on a life of it’s own, slowly spreading throughout the city. More importantly, the garden inspires more gardeners, and soon the formerly drab city is blooming.
There is more than meets the eye here. If you scratch beneath the charming tale of environmental stewardship, you'll find an interesting meditation on the nature of ideas in the internet age.
In Brown's book, more important than the spreading of the garden is the spreading of the idea of gardening. Ideas are curious things indeed, and it is true that with a little persistence and cultivation, an idea has the ability to take on a life of its own. In the blink of an eye (or with the click of a mouse) an idea can spread and take root in even the tiniest crack (or niche market). If enough people pick up on the idea and are inspired by it, they will carry it themselves. Like twittering birds that spread vegetation by carrying seeds to distant lands, an idea can be spread by individuals as they fly across the internet.
Indeed, it is when other people in Brown's city get bit by the gardening bug, that the city really begins to explode. One garden by itself has limitations, but a sprawling network of people dedicated to gardening, now that is when broad social change really blossoms.
Whereas the normal term for this hyperkinetic spread of information is the vicious term to "go viral", the Curious Garden presents the phenomenon of this growth model with innocent beauty and childlike wonder. A message in The Curious Garden is that it takes a combination of sustained curiosity and innovative persistence to allow our ideas to bloom (that and a little bit of luck). The flipside of which is that the fertile garden of the imagination can easily dry up into a bleak and desolate landscape without proper care.
So, upon finishing the Curious Garden, I was left with three questions.
The first question is: What is your idea?
The second question is: Whether it is gardening, an innovative plan for universal health care, or customized bobblehead dolls, do you have the curiosity and persistence to cultivate your idea and allow it to grow?
The last question is: Do you believe in your idea enough to see it spread and possibly take on a life of its own?
Note: For a full review and a compendium of other on-line reviews, go check out (as always) A Fuse #8 Production.