Over Design

At last week’s Real Lives Zoom event, Stuart Burgess commented on ‘over design’. By that he meant those aspects of nature which are not necessary for basic survival. There is far more beauty in the world that one might expect. Human beings are able to sing and make melody, for example, which survival doesn’t demand; this is a quality one might expect from a designer God who enjoys hearing it. In case you didn’t know, Burgess is a professor of Engineering at the University or Bristol. I suspect he knows a thing or two about design and over-design.

The good professor needs no moral support from me, yet I’ve been struck over the last few months by the beauty of flowers. Okay, this is rather obvious and cliched, but another example might be the lovely bird song coming from by my window the other day. Unusually for a built-up area, there sat a goldfinch singing so beautifully. Why? What about the gorgeous flowers that grace my little front and back yards?


The Magnolia tree put up a decent effort this year before the winds blew all away;


Blue bells growing in the shade;


Pink Campion beaming in Letcliffe Park;


The Easter Cacti are as splendid as they are late;


The regular prickly cacti have also deigned to flower.


Welsh poppies are as magnificent as they are resilient.


Still, my aunt’s exhibit trumps the lot. Planted fifteen years ago, this Passion Flower finally bloomed- and what a bloom it is! There’s no way this level of exoticism was an accident or cynical plan for self-perpetuation. It could have attracted many pollinators without this level of beauty. Rather, its ancestor was designed by a Great Gardener whose love of nature is only dimly replicated in our own.