True Knowledge

Hanson, T. 2015.  The triumph of seeds.  Basic Books. New York. (Intro – Ch. 5)

The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson is a beautifully written ode to glorious seeds! The novel is organized into sections that are each titled by one specific aspect of seeds. These sections are further divided into chapters with very specific titles that explain (but do not entirely give away) the content that follows. The author does jump around in time a little bit but the story remains easy to follow. Though written in present tense with, Hanson also reminisces on his past experiences in the field as well as his home and family life.

I am really enjoying this book so far! Hanson absolutely had me at avocado! There is just so much to love: Hanson’s humour, descriptive imagery, and his personification of seeds and plants are absolutely delightful (some of these literally gave me goosebumps as I read!)… Aside from these great qualities, though, there are two other components of this novel that resonate with me even more than the beauty and humour! My favourite aspects of this novel most definitely have to be the concise way in which the author presents the hard facts, but also how the author and his expert colleagues and other professionals he meets along his journey readily admit when they really do not know certain things for sure. I have always greatly respected when those who are considered “experts” acknowledge and fully embrace that which they do not know… as Confucius said, “To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.”

This novel is packed full of hard facts with their accompanying data, but the way Hanson displays this information is fun and simplistic. Quite literally every paragraph in The Triumph of Seeds contains some interesting bit of information presented in a way that a textbook never, EVER could. The facts are intertwined seamlessly in Hanson’s writing.

I was stunned when Hanson admitted, straight-up, that he “still didn’t really understand how seeds worked” (Ch. 1). But this trend continued throughout the assigned reading, and I found this so entirely refreshing since, being a student, I rarely get the chance to learn about concepts from anything other than a textbook or lecture medium. When discussing the seed of an avocado, Carol the master seed biologist, admits, “We know a little bit about what’s happening in there, but not everything” (Ch.1) To be involved in the free discussion of biology, to sort of have a glimpse of what scholars might discuss when they aren’t teaching students the hard facts, is quite a treat for someone who holds interest in those disciplines. The same occurs with Derek Bewley, “god” of seeds (Ch. 3). Hanson asks him about the possible reasons for why the coconut seed evolved to hold such a plethora of energy. Bewley states that none of his doctoral students have provided a reasonable explanation. Again, in Ch. 4, we meet another expert, Bill DiMichele, who, with open arms, accepts the unknown! His ideology is contagious to me, and he has some great quotes:

“I used to go to the field expecting certain things,” he told me, explaining how textbook knowledge can burden the mind with preconceived notions. “Now I go to the field looking. I’ve found it’s more productive to just dig a hole and see what I find.”

&

“Never argue with a fool—an onlooker can’t tell the difference.”

I want Bill to write a book, too!

In The Triumph of Seeds, the questions asked and the questions that are still left unanswered plant the seed (lol) of curiosity in my mind as a reader and invoke a true sense of wonder! Again, as with the last reading, I am genuinely excited to continue following Hanson’s seedy journey. But in the meantime, I’m going to attempt to germinate some avocado seeds!

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