Eyes Opened to Listen

by Wayne Michaelson

“Her sunburned face blends perfectly with these pretty flowers”


 I realized that most of my interactions with plants were centered on its aesthetics and its invariable position in the food-chain. When I dug deep and thought about my interactions with plants, I conceived that I only really interact with plants when my artistic urges fancy how the random organism organizes itself with the scenery. 

Yes, my recollections of plants were memories of scenes tied to my visual accounts of plants. Other times, I’m chopping it up while making dinner. Of course, its our main source of food sustenance. My recollections were either visual or transactional, a means to an end. I could vaguely remember interactions where the scene was centered on the plants itself. Most of the time, I don’t notice or acknowledge the plants around me unless it has some outstanding visual components.

I questioned myself “Why is this a pattern?” “How do I compartmentalize when assessing the significance of things around me?” “Why is it so easy for me to ignore plants?”

The article “Botanical Rhythms” discusses a condition botanists James Wandersee and Elizabeth Schussler refer to as “plant blindness.” The term is defined as a general unawareness of plants’ existence despite their constant presence in our daily lives. This tendency undermines plants’ value and takes a toll on the focus of plant conservation.

Paying attention to a voice I don’t necessarily pay attention to was a learning experience.  I learned that voice studies work under the premise of thinking of voice more broadly. This premise is a foothold that helped me realize why plants aren’t as significant to me. Plants lack the traditional communication skills sufficient to interact with me and allow me to notice its direct influence on me. Thus, I subconsciously downplay plant’s existence because I base biotic significance on the replicability of the input and output between me and the other organism. I’m definitely  leeching off plants but I started thinking of them not as an inanimate object for me to exploit, but as a living co-inhabitant, just as important to this planet as we are. Now I am certain that plants have voices too. We have sonic, material, and contextual evidence of it. The sonic component of plant’s voices can be disembodied through space using various technologies but you don’t need advanced technology to be able to listen to plants. We can also listen to the plant’s voices through the historical evidence hidden in it’s material component. 

Plants are incredible organisms. They have been in our planet for about 700 million years. Can you imagine the ecological and biological knowledge cultivated for millions of years that are buried inside this organisms? Plants existence is a powerful metaphor. There are years of meanings and dynamism layered under the story that plants wants to tell if we choose to listen. We should listen and learn to understand these paradigms as they are critical to our own survival and to the health of the planet. The act of listening to plant life is an act of acknowledgment.


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