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The art of creating miniature indoor trees began over two thousand years ago in China. Today we know them as  bonsai, Chinese meaning pen’jing, “a tree or shrub planted in a shallow dish or tray.” 

Held down too hard by rules, partial thoughts cannot blossom. Rules without ideas is prison. Ideas without rules is chaos. Bonsai teaches us balance.

Balancing rules against innovation is a pervasive problem in all of life. I once saw a play entitled "The Game of Life." The message was that one is often asked to play the game for high stakes before anybody has explained the rules. Moreover, it's not so easy to tell if you are winning.

It often seems that beginners (and young people generally) need rules or broad theories for guidance. Then, as experience accumulates, the many exceptions and variations gradually invalidate the rules at the same time that the rules become less needed. A great advantage of bonsai over Life is that one can learn from fatal mistakes.

 

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