The Knight and The Gardener
by Cassidy S. Dale is here
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Tell me your image of God and I will tell you your theology. – Carl Jung
Have you ever considered how you see the world? Why people disagree over what is moral, heroic, loving, or holy? Why you team well with some people and conflict with others? Why two people sitting next to each other in the same church can read very different things in the same Bible? Why people disagree about politics and war?
The answer is worldviews. Everyone holds a worldview of his or her own. Worldviews are like the glasses one wears to see the world—every “lens” shows you the world in its own way. And these lenses, since they shape how you see the world, influence how you react to situations around you and how you make decisions. For example, some worldviews or lenses present events around you as aspects of a great conflict in which you are a hero who can help win a great victory. Other worldviews or lenses show you a world in which you are an inventor, explorer or pioneer who can solve a critical world problem to make the world a better place.
Here’s an example. Not long ago I asked a large group of pastors what they would title a history book—if they wrote one—on the moral, religious, societal, and political story of the past two decades. Half of the pastors answered that they would give the history book titles like “Decline,” “Collapse,” or “Faith Under Attack.” The other half of the pastors provided titles like “Slow Progress.”
Their responses showed me that—beyond mere optimism or pessimism—there were two worldviews at work in the room. These two worldviews served as these pastors’ lenses for interpreting all recent events, understanding the world around them, and providing their approaches to change the world. I call these two worldviews The Knight and The Gardener.
I have seen these two worldviews at work during my years as a futurist and consultant. And as we moved into the Bush years, the War on Terror, and war in Iraq, I found that the Knight-Gardener distinction explained more—and enabled me to forecast more—of the behavior of Bush Administration officials, fundamentalists and liberals on the religious and political scene, the actions and rhetoric of al-Qaeda senior leadership, and some of our military successes and failures against the insurgency in Iraq.
This book “maps” the basic framework for how Knights and Gardeners address problems and conflict situations. Here I seek to explain those two worldviews and how they have shaped or affected our public and private lives today in religion, relationships, politics, and war and peace.
This book also seeks to explain how Knights and Gardeners differ—and how they’re similar across spiritual, political or theological orientations or contexts. Originally written as a list of maxims for my students and consulting clients, you may find these Knight-Gardener distinctions useful as well. You may even recognize the influence of these two worldviews in your work, family, faith, and politics—or even in yourself.
Knights see themselves—and all people and things—as part of a great, cosmos-spanning war between the forces of divine good and demonic evil or instead, say, between enlightened reason and destructive ignorance. Knights believe the primary calling of good people is to undertake crusades—moral, spiritual, and political—to protect the innocent and defeat the forces of evil. Knights categorize people as allies or enemies, and see most situations as zero sum games. Any combative or competitive endeavor is a Knight’s endeavor.
For religious Knights, regardless of faith perspective, God is the supreme divine authority whose order requires courageous, determined, moral champions. Christian Knights, for example, spread the Gospel to save people from the consequences of their sinful behavior, and seek out ways to eradicate immorality from the world.
A Knight looking down on the world from a space capsule would see good, noble paladins fighting great, menacing dragons for control of the world. For Knights, the world—and the terrain of the individual human soul—is a battlefield, always at war.
Gardeners see themselves—and all people and things—as part of the growth of a great, cosmos-spanning Garden, one that can flourish further if aided by well-meaning and inspired people. Gardeners believe the primary calling of good people is to cultivate the Garden through planting, good planning, the pursuit of transformative discovery, invention and innovation, and artistic revelation. Any constructive endeavor is a Gardener’s endeavor.
For religious Gardeners, God is the creative force whose greatest attributes are imagination and creativity. Gardeners view themselves as imbued by the Creator with the divine creative spark and charged with growing the Garden beyond its current borders. Christian Gardeners, for example, spread the Gospel to restore broken people so they can rejoin the ongoing creation process, and to awaken others to their meaningful role in tending the Garden.
A Gardener looking down on the world from a space capsule would see a great Garden of lush jungles, farms, the construction or rejuvenation of beautiful cities, and new opportunities in the now-barren places. And over the blue parts of the globe, the Gardener would see a shining silver rain fall silently into a swirling silver sea. For Gardeners, to paraphrase the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 8, all of Creation is involved in one great act of giving birth.
Other thinkers have seen the Knight and Gardener worldviews at play in world history, world religions, game theory, and politics, but refer to them by other terms.
- Winners and Losers and Challenge and Response are the terms used by historian Arnold Toynbee in his 12-volume examination of the life cycles of 23 major world civilizations A Study of History, published between 1934 and 1961. Toynbee’s thesis is that civilizations fail when they remain too long in Winners and Losers mode, and fail to operate primarily from a Challenge and Response orientation. Futurist Peter Schwartz borrows from Toynbee in his book on scenario methodology The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World (1996).
- Zerosum games and Nonzerosum games are the terms used by journalist and historian Robert Wright in his study of the intersection of human evolutionary biology, civilization, and moral development Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (2000).
- Finite games and Infinite games are the terms used by New York University religion professor James Carse in his study of religion, culture, and history Finite and Infinite Games (1987). (Many thanks to Dr. Carse—the unconventional structure of this book is based on his.)
- Strict father and Nurturant parent are the terms used by cognitive linguistics and political rhetoric professor George Lakoff in Moral Politics (1996) and Don’t Think of an Elephant (2004).
Other thinkers have made similar points, but have not coined counterpart terms. Historian Jared Diamond outlines how zerosum (Knight) orientations have caused civilizations to fail in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail (2005). Comparative religions expert Joseph Campbell often said that a major theme across the major world religions was a quest to reunite two warring factions or separated halves in the world into one-ness. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), The Masks of God: Creative Mythology (1968), The Power of Myth (1991) and Reflections on the Art of Living: The Joseph Campbell Companion (1995) contain this theme in Campbell’s works. Even national security and global affairs thinker Thomas Barnett refers to a Knight military as a “Leviathan” military, and Gardener military as a “System Administration” military—and outlines the need for both—in The Pentagon’s New Map (2004) and Blueprint for Action (2005).
Don’t mistake me as saying “There are two kinds of people in the world”—that’s absurd. While there are many other worldviews and worldview-narratives at work in the world today, I focus on the Knight and the Gardener because they are the most relevant to our current political, cultural and religious situation.
Where do these worldviews come from? No one knows for sure. Some argue that religions create worldviews; others argue that worldviews create religious orientations—a real “Which came first—the chicken or the egg?” conundrum.
Separating worldviews from their religious roots (or vice versa) is impossible. For the purposes of this book I argue that worldviews create religious orientations. Why? It’s simpler. Since this book is written to be helpful for as many people as possible, and since many of you may not be religious, I begin the book with the areas of life most people find most familiar, and end with spiritual matters.
Even if you have no interest in religion, but still find religion in society important to understand, you may find that the last section of this book—Soul—explains why and how religious groups such as the Religious Right pursue their political agendas.
Regardless, one need not be religious to hold one of these worldviews.
Everyone has both the Knight and the Gardener within him or herself, but tends to emphasize one worldview over the other out of choice, habit, upbringing, religious background, or education. Everyone is primarily one and secondarily the other. You may also function in different modes in different parts of your life, say, as a Knight at work and a Gardener at home.
Worldviews aren’t destiny. Even the most strident Knights function as Gardeners from time to time; and most Gardeners must function as Knights occasionally. And Knights and Gardeners encounter “conversion experiences” to the other orientation for any number of life reasons.
In this book, I seek to outline only the patterns and tendencies of Knights and Gardeners’ worldviews and behavior. These two worldviews are described as opposites—and sometimes presented in extremes—for illustrative purposes and clarity only. In reality, they are not opposites or mutually exclusive, but the two ends of a continuum.
Like all paradigms, this book seeks to explain most of a phenomenon, most of the time.