Bonsai and the Quest for Self

(An excerpt from my book Bonsai Coyote)

Catherine Shephard
Philosophy, Per. 6

Bonsai and the Quest for Self

Bonsai has very little to do with gardening. It is not a hobby, nor a craft, nor even an art form. Bonsai is an ideal. A single bonsai is an entire universe in miniature; each twig and trunk shaped, cut or wired until the perfect symbiosis is achieved. Unlike the mundane potted plant; that vanilla fern, suburban ficus, or even the trendy but superficial orchid—bonsai have soul.

For Bonsai practitioners, these trees are not merely ornamentation, not air quality filters or touches of green in the living room; bonsai are teachers and friends. The act of creating bonsai is a meditative practice that turns a person within, connects him to nature and ultimately himself.

‘Know Thyself’ was inscribed on the doorway of the sacred temple of Apollo at Delphi. This ancient wisdom reflects the heart of bonsai. In essence, bonsai is an exercise in self-discovery. And getting to know yourself is the most powerful and radical act of a lifetime.

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