Community Irritants (Can Teach Us Something Too)

by weirdlittlepony

Recently, I got very annoyed with a member of a tillandsia-related Facebook group I am a part of. It’s a free-to-join community where tillandsia lovers can share photos and information, and ask for help, suggestions or advice on their plants and growing areas.

I joined the group in September 2013, when I bought my very first tilly, and have been rather active. I don’t post or comment a lot, but I check out what’s new every day. This is because I adopt a “don’t say anything unless you’re sure” and “listen/read first, talk later” approach to any new area of interest.

Mr X popped up just about three or four months ago with a self-announcement that he was an enthusiastic newbie. He then proceeded to dominate the group’s wall, posting long, technical spiels about his artificial growing environment (he keeps his plants in a specially constructed box with specialised LED grow lights, because after obsessively measuring the various aspects of wind/humidity/light intensity/temperature around his home, he was dissatisfied with the natural surroundings available in his personal habitat).

Quick on the heels of that came incessant posting and commenting: posting “before and after” photos of his plants (to show their significant growth in his customised environment), and answering questions and dishing out advice as though he were a long-time connoisseur.

Initially, I just took it as someone being really, really, really enthusiastic. But it got irritating because on the few posts that I chose to respond to, he would jump in immediately after I said something and make it sound like my information was half-assed and that he needed to save the situation with his superior understanding.

In the most recent incident, a long-time collector expressed frustration at being unable to prevent her tillandsias from being repeatedly infested by ants. As she’s been doing this for more than two years and has a significant number of plants at home and in her office, it’s probably safe to assume she would have already tried most of the usual remedies. In fact, she mentioned two methods that she’d used repeatedly without success.

I thought I’d share an alternative method that most tillandsia growers wouldn’t have heard of – essential oils (EOs). You see, normal oils (like neem oil or white oil that work well for growers of other species) cannot be used on CAM plants like tillandsias. Normal oils create a surface film that would smother a CAM plant. But 100% essential oils aren’t oily, and they don’t leave a surface film – they are absorbed almost instantly because their molecules are so small.

In any case, my advice was to apply peppermint EO across the ants’ trails and in a rough sort of circle around the tilly growing area – not only would it kill off ants and spiders, it would also deter them (and quite a few other pests) from returning. I have, though, tested peppermint oil both neat and diluted directly on an ionantha’s leaves and it suffered no harm whatsoever.

Mr X immediately jumped in (literally a couple of minutes after I commented) and said oh, no, ants normally coexist with tillandsias in the wild, there is no need to remove them, and anyway, oil cannot be used on tillandsias because it will suffocate the plants to death. He then proceeded to insist that the presence of ants does not harm myrmecophytes (pseudobulbous tillandsias are a sub-group), and spew out paragraph after paragraph on why cinnamon powder is the best and safest method.

I chose to say nothing in response. I sent the asker a private message to ensure that she got the right meaning of my suggestion (not what Mr X implied).

Anyway. I was just thinking that this could very well be seen as a microcosm of today’s church world. The plants are the people, and the collectors/growers are the church leaders (scripture does say we are also co-labourers with Christ in the fields and vineyards). And certain church leaders can’t seem to stop themselves from thinking that they’re the only ones with accurate insight, or clear discernment, or fresh revelation… and that everyone has to hear what they say (and be persuaded to agree).

I wonder what God thinks and feels about denominational and independent church leaders bickering and fighting, knowing that none of us has it a hundred percent right? Heck, we can’t even agree on an individual basis whether a person’s personal walk should be left as a personal walk – some pastors will tell you, for example, that you cannot possibly have a healthy spiritual life if you’re spending time praying and worshipping in gardens instead of in church. They will tell you that not being a member of a church means that you have backslided and are in danger of apostasy. (I’ll talk more specifically about church another time.)

Come on already. We’re all finite and limited, really, and our knowledge – of anything – will never be complete. That includes the knowledge and understanding of God, of what a perfect relationship with Him is like, and what true communion with the Spirit is, among others. What makes any of us think we know better than others? If we’ve happened to be in a situation that taught us something that another person hasn’t had an opportunity to learn, what right do we have to feel superior?

There are always going to be people who know more than you and people who know less than you, and there will always be people who think they know more than you. It’s just a fact of life. You can never control their thoughts or actions. What you can control is yourself – your knowledge (you can ensure that you keep on learning), your actions (be humble!) and your responses (be gracious). And even in that you need the Lord’s help, because as always, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.