Thinking Like a Plant


by Craig Holdrege

Lindisfarne Books, 2013
217 pages, paperback, $25.00
ISBN 978-1-58420-143-4


Description

Who would imagine that plants can become master teachers of a radical new way of seeing and interacting with the world? Plants are dynamic and resilient, living in intimate connection with their environment. This book presents an organic way of knowing modeled after the way plants live.

When we slow down, turn our attention to plants, study them carefully, and consciously internalize the way they live, a transformation begins. Our thinking becomes more fluid and dynamic; we realize how we are embedded in the world; we become sensitive and responsive to the contexts we meet; and we learn to thrive within a changing world. These are the qualities our culture needs in order to develop a more sustainable, life-supporting relation to our environment.

While it is easy to talk about new paradigms and to critique our current state of affairs, it is not so easy to move beyond the status quo. That’s why this book is crafted as a practical guide to developing a life-infused way of interacting with the world.

from the back cover

Contents


INTRODUCTION  

1. FROM OBJECT THINKING TO LIVING THINKING 11
The Objective Attitude . . . 11 Object thinking … 13 The Logic of Solids . . . 18 Object Thinking Applied . . . 19 Educating to Disconnect … 23 Losing the Experienced World … 25 Beyond Object Thinking? … 29 From Object Thinking to Living Thinking … 32

2. ROOTED IN THE WORLD 37
Becoming Rooted-Perception 43 Into the Phenomena … 45 Nature Drawing … 49 Sauntering of the Senses . . . 52 Exact Sensorial Imagination 56 Openness and Preconceptions . . . 59 Becoming Aware of Thinking … 62

3· THE PLANT AS TEACHER OF TRANSFORMATION 69
Plant Development-The Field Poppy … 69 Leaves: Transformation, Expansion, and Contraction . . . 73 Process Thinking . 0 o 77 Bringing Forth and Letting Go o 0 0 So Expansion and Contraction in Learning 0 0 0 81 Flowering Thought-Insight o 0 o 83 Leaf Metamorphosis 0 0 0 86 Metamorphosis in the Flower 0 o o 88 A Shape-Shifting Proteus o 0 • 94 Unity in Diversity-Living Ideas and Wholeness … 95 Some Implications o o 0 98

4. THE PLANT AS TEACHER OF CONTEXT 100
A Plant in Its Context 101 Light and Plant Form … 106 Tree Forms . . . 108 Plant-Environment: A Dynamic Unity … 111 Plasticity . . . 111
The Reciprocal Relation between Plant and Environment . . . II5 Context Sensitivity . . . 118
Relational Reality . . . 119 Participation … 120 Dialogic Inquiry . . . 123 Delicate Empiricism . . . 124 Darwin: Exploration and Theory . . . 128 Evolving Knowledge … 135

5· THE STORY OF AN ORGANISM 137
The Importance of Story . . . 138 The Story of Common Milkweed . . . 139 Vegetative Development … 141 From Flower to Fruit . . . 145 Flower Morphology and Pollination … 151 Abundant Animal Life . . . 157 The Extended Organism . . . 158 Summarizing Picture . . . I65 Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Mountain” . . . 166

6. CONCLUSION: A QUIET REVOLUTION …172
The Plant’s Teachings-A Summary … 172 Education and the “Treacherous Idea” of Preparation . . . 176 Learning From Genuine Presences . . . 178 The Developing Human Being . . . r84 Adult Education at The Nature Institute r88 Who Are You? … I92 Sustainability and Education . . . 194 Where Do All These Plants Come From? . . . 195

APPENDIX . . . I98

NOTES … 199

REFERENCES … 200

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 210

INDEX … 2II


Reviews


Thinking Like a Plant is an exciting practical guide as well as a compendium of descriptions and ideas of his findings as a researcher and an educator. In Craig Holdrege’s words, ‘by engaging in the concrete we can escape the grasp of the abstract.’ His book, which is nicely produced and very approachable in its size, mines several rich seams of biological, ecological, and psychological reality and I definitely recommend it.”

— Jackie Bortoft in Holistic Science Journal.
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“Over the years I have read many books on ecology and sustainability, and I can say without hesitation that this is one of the very best, destined to become a classic. Read it, connect with plants, and feel yourself expand tenderly and powerfully into our marvelous world.”

— Stephan Harding in Resurgence and Ecologist


“I strongly recommend Thinking Like a Plant to scholars and students of environmental philosophy and the ecological humanities. It compellingly argues that in order to address the environmental crisis, we not only need to change what we think but how we think, and that plants can guide us in this transformation. Thinking Like a Plant offers a rich account of how plants can serve as a model for an ecological attunement to the world.”

— Luke Fischer in Environmental Philosophy


“This is much more than a book about plants, although it has much to say about how we can develop the faculties for a much deeper appreciation of the living beings we call plants. If we are receptive and awake to what a plant is, how it lives and grows, there are profound implications for the environmental movement, the philosophy of science, and for education at all levels.”

— Richard Katz in Flower Essence Society


Thinking Like a Plant refuses to fall into a category — philosophy? nature study? ecology? education? botany? how-to? By turns it is each of these, but it aims at an interdisciplinary wholeness that transcends these.... It aims at a genuine wholeness, what Henri Bortoft calls ‘upstream thinking,’ the reunification of disciplines and subjects that have become separated and fragmented over the past centuries.”

— Stephen Sagarin in Research Bulletin for Waldorf Education