Doth not the common experience make this common unto us that the fattest ground bringeth forth nothing but weeds, if it not be well tilled?
The soils of the earth produce ever so many weeds, ranging from beggarweeds to smartweeds. And the souls of men—the minds that think and will—are no less plagued with errors galore, mental weeds that range us from the beggar to the smart aleck. Common? We all err—no living exception!
Unquestionably, “the fattest ground bringeth forth nothing but weeds, if it not be well tilled.” And the fattest prosperity brings nothing but fallacies, if the minds of men are not well-disciplined. As Horace, the Roman of 2,000 years ago, observed, “adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”
The growing adversity in the world today, here and elsewhere, is eliciting talents by which we learn to better cultivate the fertile soil of freedom. My thesis is that such cultivation of truth begins with the discovery and elimination of our countless errors—weeding one’s garden—a strictly personal adventure. Everett Dean Martin offers excellent counsel:
The man who strives to educate himself—and no one else can educate him—must win a certain victory over his own nature. He must learn to smile at his dear idols, analyze his every prejudice, scrap if necessary his fondest and most consoling belief, question his presuppositions, and take his chances with the truth.
I well recall a day when my garden was choked with weeds. Shortly after FEE was founded in 1946, I was asked to lecture at a luncheon club in Los Angeles. Having been General Manager of the L. A. Chamber of Commerce, I had many friends in the area and was pleased to have several of them invited as guests for the occasion. At the end of my lecture, I was shocked by a battery of questions from members of the club obviously more sympathetic toward socialism than toward my views. These questions were new to me at the time, and I was stumped for answers—much embarrassed before my friends.
Then and there, I resolved to learn to recognize these tricky questions—these weeds in my garden—and how to eradicate them. Thus began a series of suggested answers, by myself and by others, to the most common Cliches of Socialism, culminating in a little book of 76 short chapters that has been helpful to many a workman in his garden of freedom.1
Here are a few examples of those tricky, mischievous notions—cliches—that ought to be weeded from one’s garden of freedom:
“The more complex the society, the more government control we need.”
“If we had no social security, many people would go hungry.”
“The right to strike is conceded but. . . .”
“The size of the national debt doesn’t matter because we owe it to ourselves.”
“The free market ignores the poor.”
“Human rights are more important than property rights.”
“We’re paying for it, so we might as well get our share.”
“Customers ought to be protected by price controls.”
“The welfare state is the best protection against communism.”
“Big business and big labor require big government.”
“I prefer security to freedom.”
“Private business should welcome government competition.”
“If government doesn’t relieve distress, who will?”
“Labor is not a commodity.”
“Rent control protects tenants.”
“Under public ownership, we, the people, own it.”
Why does our book list only 76 weeds? Because we do not see all the weeds there are. The ways to be wrong are infinite. There’ll never be such a thing as a perfectly clean garden.
As Cervantes wrote, “The road is always better than the inn.” The inn is a stopping place, life’s purpose abandoned. Why is the road better? We thereby move toward our goals, weeding along the way, tilling our souls as best we can, now and forever. There have never been any clean gardens nor will there ever be. It is a matter of progression or ascendancy. Everett Dean Martin’s formula is good enough for me.
The man who strives to educate himself-and no one else can educate him—I am the only person who can educate me, education being a taking-from, never an injection-into process. My formal education ended with high school. Not knowing much and knowing it, I have for the past 60 years selected my own tutors, Dr. Everett Dean Martin being one of many, past and present. Saint Matthew set forth the only valid educational process many centuries ago:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
. . . must win a certain victory over his own nature—What is man’s natural state, his nature? Is it not his vanity, his unawareness of how little he knows? How seek a victory over this vaingloriousness? Acknowledge, as did Socrates, “I know nothing but I know I know nothing.” That’s the first step. The second comes naturally: seeking to know more! Therein lies indeed “a certain victory.”
He must learn to smile at his dear idols—An idol is “the object of ardent or excessive devotion or admiration.” Perhaps we all succumb to some extent, idolizing certain persons ranging from little political gods to those endowed with fame, wealth, power, charisma. Such idolatry, as distinguished from an esteem of virtues, is degrading both to the idolater and the idol. We should, indeed, smile at our “dear idols,” particularly if one of them happens to be the person seen in the mirror.
. . . analyze his every prejudice—Prejudice is a judgment or opinion formed before the facts are known—usually unfavorable. Such narrow-mindedness or short-sightedness accounts for the millions admiring the weeds of socialism and blind to the flowers in the garden of freedom. Analysis—an unprejudiced study of the records—lights the way to truth.
. . . scrap if necessary his fondest and most consoling belief— What we believe depends pretty much on what we are, that is, on what we can understand. Comprehension in the wisest amongst us, relative to Infinite Consciousness—Creation—is infinitesimal. This accounts for ever so many fond and consoling beliefs that are obstacles to human evolution: life’s purpose. The challenge, then, is to scrap every belief which stands in the way of our creative growth, emergence, ascendance. In other words, we grow in wisdom as we find sound ideas to displace fallacies.
. . . question his presuppositions—To presuppose is to take something for granted; to view a subject or problem in a narrow, biased, dogmatic, intolerant fashion; to jump to a conclusion. The very words should alert us against this common human frailty, this noxious weed that chokes many a garden before its fruits can be harvested.
. . . and take his chances with the truth—Chance is an opportunity: as you’ll have a chance to go. Where? Toward whatever truth one can grasp and bring into his possession. But many a weed stands between a gardener and a bountiful harvest of truth. The flowering of truth depends upon freedom if it is to grow and mature. And the game is to overcome the obstacles, the weeds of intervention and control.
Weed your garden and you encourage me to weed mine!