A kid in Singapore with a neighbor who is cultivating a Japanese Garden is a rarity, though that’s what I was.
In Singapore, a tiny island nation, land is scarce and more than 80 percent of the population lives in simple highrises without balconies, let alone gardens. Thus, from early on, the value of scarcity is ingrained in Singaporeans and likely a main reason why Bitcoin adoption is high and regulation non-restrictive there. Growing up and learning about Japanese gardens, however, brought me an additional appreciation for Bitcoin.
At the heart of the Japanese garden is the principle of reflection upon nature. The garden is not created to appear beautiful, but rather is intended to merge into its surroundings and be soothing, even calming to the visitor — just as nature does not overwhelm but rather pleases. For my neighbor, tending to his garden was a labor of love — never ending, never complete — that kept him mentally and physically engaged. Even when persuaded to sell his house and garden for lofty Singaporean prices, he wouldn’t let go of it. His little Japanese garden in a bustling metropolis was part of something bigger, that was worth caring for into old age and not to be parted with for money.
This sense of being part of something bigger is something I, and likely many who are reading this, have experienced when being involved in Bitcoin. Bitcoin is the future of money and money is elemental in our world. Money is innately human, connects us and allows us to trade and work together — it allows us to grow. Similarly to a Japanese garden, the work on Bitcoin is never ending. Being bogged down by the intricacies of daily work and life, it is easy to lose track of this grand vision of a new money but it is important to remember from time to time. Like a garden embedded in its environment, Bitcoin is embedded in the world as part of something bigger.
But this is not the only parallel between Bitcoin and the art of Japanese garden maintenance.
When tending to a Japanese garden, the process and tools are essential as they allow the gardener to realize their vision and execute their efforts as meticulously as possible. A gardener would very deliberately decide what changes to enact in their garden and what tools to use to further enhance it while not negatively impacting its existing scenes. The small river bed might need to be cleaned, the sand needs to be forked and stones placed to complement a new river bend. Enhancing the scenery without destroying existing structures, planting trees to provide shade in a few years, is part of the art of gardening, allowing the present version to be pleasant while working toward an even better future version.
The similarities to Bitcoin development are obvious. For Bitcoin to allow users to preserve their wealth, it is imperative that developers use the right tools to further develop the protocol and to be scrupulous in deciding, as a community, on meaningful features to implement. A thoughtful, continuous approach of carefully tending to the codebase is needed, rather than the short-sighted, “move-fast-and-break-things” approach prevalent in Silicon Valley and other cryptocurrency projects.
Reviewing changes becomes more important than developing new features, assuring backwards compatibility is essential to allow the ecosystem to thrive. Building tools for developers to be more efficient in their work and designing better user experiences becomes as important as direct protocol development, all with the common goal of a better monetary future.
And then, there is the discovery feature. Small Japanese gardens like my neighbor’s are observed from a certain viewpoint, a porch or a patch of grass, from where one ponders the whole garden as a zen-like experience. Bigger gardens are to be discovered, like the official Japanese garden in Singapore. It is big in size and has to be walked, ideally slowly, to notice all of the details while the garden enfolds itself before your eyes, allowing you to enjoy its tranquility all around you.
Bitcoin is clearly a discovery garden, impossible to catch with one glimpse. Everyone who has fallen down the rabbit hole remembers the moments of excitement, or even enlightenment, when a new piece of the puzzle fell into place. For me, it was the difficulty adjustment, for others it might be the hard cap or running your first full node.
Whatever it is, I offer you to open your perspective and try to see Bitcoin from a different view whenever things might seem to go off track — take a step back and think of a Japanese garden. Bitcoin needs to be observed and tended to, to fulfil its purpose. There is a lot of work to be done and a lot of adversities to overcome. But, in a world seemingly gone mad, Bitcoin can be a place of tranquility and hope, a recluse from the world that allows us to build something better. Bitcoin can be a Japanese garden — to me, it is.