Monday, June 1, 2009

Odd Thoughts

This weekend as I was mowing the lawn, I pondered the question of what, if anything, plants think. It is a common theme in speculative and science fiction that plants have thoughts. Generally, plants like trees are pictured as having deep and ponderous thoughts while weeds are pictured along the lines of the flitting hummingbird with short and frivolous thoughts. My suspicion is that both ideas bear more than a trace of anthropomorphism. So my question to ponder was: "What do the flowers on a lilac bush think?"

This chain of illogic was brought on by the sight of the dried and sere remnants of the flowers on the lilac bush in the back yard. Like all lilac species, the blooms on my bush last only for a few short weeks in the spring. During that time they are present in profusion with a wonderful and powerful aroma. However, by this weekend, they were mostly brown shells with somewhat less than one out of a thousand little blooms still living. So the question that came unbidden to my mind was what the one still growing bloom in a bundle of flowers on the plant was thinking. Was it celebrating the life of its brothers and sisters now departed? Was it living in fear that it too would soon pass from this world? Or was it soaking up the last of the sun's rays as it ended its brief life?

What kind of thoughts would go through your mind if you had to watch all your brothers and sisters die in a short span, but you were still hanging on like that lonely flower? I could picture all kinds of mental reactions. The real problem I had is that it is truly hard to escape the prison of our own anthropomorphism and attribute really different thoughts to the plant. Or to put it in the converse, it is really hard to think of a possible thought for the flower that has not already been expressed by or about some human being.

So I'll ask you - what do you think was going through the mind of the poor surviving flower? You can assume that the flower had a mind. I'm willing to grant that as a given. Call me a throwback to all the funky Russian journals full of Kirlian photography from the 60's claiming to see plants thinking. Or just call it a topic to consider. And please don't tell me it was thinking of schemes like those that fill my spam folder. I figure only humans are that depraved and gullible. {*grin*}


  1. Have you seen the movie "The Happening" with Mark Walberg? The plants don't so much "think" as just react. And boy are they mad!

  2. I can honestly say I have never had that thought. I can imagine that the lilac is unbearably sad and can't wait to go be with her family. :) I do wonder what our mean old mule is thinking, though.

  3. I had another thought and it was along the lines of survival of the fitess. Why would the lilac still be struggling to grow if all it wanted to do was join the others. There is no struggle in that. I think it is saying, "told you I'd be the last one standing. Told you my roots were stronger and longer than yours." I think it may have been, dare I say, the bully in the group. Makes ya want to pick it doesn't it?


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