Uprooting World Problems
When I lived at home, I could count on being awakened almost every Saturday (providing the weather was bearable) by my father’s booming voice, singing a stanza or two of the Cougar Fight Song followed quickly by one of his catch phrases: “Wake up, I’ve got a little job for ya.” I would then be instructed to meet him in our small backyard where he would unveil some task for me and my brothers. These tasks sometimes included digging holes, shoveling manure, or planting various vegetation, but most often it was pulling weeds.
Pulling weeds was a dreaded task for the first few years I was required to; I would complain, sometimes through tears, and spend long hours laboring in the sun. My father is immune to tears and whining. In fact, I think it makes him stronger! On one occasion, I had learned that my friends got paid when they did yard work, so I told my dad that I would only work for pay. His simple reply was “I do pay you – you eat my food and sleep in my house every day and night. If you don’t work here, you can’t live here.” I then learned that I simply needed to get the tasks he required done so I could get more out of my weekend.
His instructions concerning weeds were simple: remove all the weeds in a certain area (dreadful were the weeks he required the whole yard weeded at once!); he also advised that I pull out the roots, lest they grow back and double my workload the next weekend. Through the weeks and months and years and the many thousands of weeds I’ve pulled, I’ve become very efficient and effective. There is really one rule to effective and fast weeding: pull out as much of every root the best way you can. The application varies depending on the particular weeds I dealt with, but is a rule that always applies.
In solving the world’s problems, we must also uproot the whole plant. The challenge for many is knowing when enough of the root has been exposed. When weeding, it is not necessary to dig up the whole root; rather, it is best to find enough that you can grasp the top of it, then, pulling mightily, the whole root underneath will come up as well. I have been very surprised at the length of roots I’ve pulled out of the ground by simply grabbing the top. Let me suggest that the challenge isn’t finding the bottom of the root, it’s knowing when you’ve found enough to exert force on it.
I feel we are only just beginning to turn our attention to the weeds of the world. No garden is without weeds, though some places are especially of concern. We are still very whiny and unsure how to address the seemingly wild yard that is Earth. I recall one of the last times I was asked to weed my father’s garden: I simply bent over, and pulled with vigorous ambidexterity for several minutes until they were gone, more efficiently and effectively than ever before. Perhaps our contemporary society will develop the same level of skill in uprooting problems as we continue to practice solving the world’s great problems.