This article focuses on three examples of religious considerations of plants, with specific attention to the uselessness of plants. Drawing on Christian and Daoist sources, the examples include the following: (1) the lilies of the field described by Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke; (2) the useless tree of Zhuangzi; and (3) Martin Heidegger’s reading of a mystic poet influenced by Meister Eckhart, Angelus Silesius, for whom a rose blooms “without why,” which resonates with Heidegger’s deconstruction (Destruktion
) of the history of metaphysics and his interpretation of uselessness in Zhuangzi. Each of those examples involves non-anthropocentric engagements with the uselessness of plants, which is not to say that they are completely free of the anthropocentrically scaled perspectives that assimilate uselessness into the logistics of agricultural societies. In contrast to ethical theories of the intrinsic value (biocentrism) or systemic value (ecocentrism) of plants, these Christian and Daoist perspectives converge with ecological deconstruction in suggesting that ethical encounters with plants emerge through attention to their uselessness. A viable response to planetary emergency can emerge with the radical passivity of effortless action, which is a careless care that finds solidarity with the carefree ways of plants.
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