Silence of the Yams

By Bret Burquest


Many philosophers believe that thoughts are deeds. If you project benevolent thoughts, you help create a benevolent environment. Projecting hostility creates hostility, etc. As we sow, so shall we reap.


Cleve Backster, America's foremost lie-detector expert, hooked up a lie-detector to a plant about 40 years ago in an attempt to see how long it would take water to reach the leaves. A lie detector is a sensitive instrument that measures such things as Galvanic skin response, slight variations in temperature, pressure, rates of flow, etc. He quickly discovered that the plant reacted "dramatically" to the experiment itself. When Backster decided to burn one of the leaves, the lie detector readings went off the charts.


When Backster noticed the "trauma" being exhibited by the plant, he decided not to burn the plant after all whereupon the plant became calm once again. Backster had not approached the plant with a match; he had only decided, in his mind, to do so, at which time the plant became "emotional." And when he had decided to call off the burning experiment, again only in his mind, the plant returned to normal.


In subsequent experiments, Backster had trouble repeating the results because once a plant had been led to believe something was going to happen and it didn't, the plant would retain that knowledge and not become "emotional" the second time. Thus, fresh plants were required for continued experimentation. This led to the conclusion that plants have some sort of memory and discrimination capability.


In other experiments, it became clear that the plants would only react if the experimenter actually intended to carry out the actions. If Backster was only bluffing to do something harmful, the plant wouldn't respond. Thus he concluded that plants could discern intent (through thought transference) and had a "memory" of past events.


Backster conducted further experiments over the last four decades and has become one of the leading bio-communications experts in the world. For example, he discovered that an egg would react when another egg was cracked. His work tends to confirm the Gaia Hypothesis which states that the world is one huge, living organism with self-regulating capability.


Dorothy Retallack is another specialist in this field. She exposed a variety of plants to various types of music. Plants that were exposed to hard rock (Led Leppelin and Jimi Hendrix) began pointing away from the source of the music, whereas plants exposed to soothing music began pointing toward the source. Through further studies, she concluded that being gentle with plants helps them flourish and being the opposite has the opposite effect.


"The Secret Life of Plants," by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, is a book detailing other experiments done on plant life. Distance doesn't seem to matter when communicating with plants. For example, a chemist became so attuned to his house plants that they reacted excitedly when he made love to his girlfriend 80 miles away. A philodendron, activated by a thought impulse from a technician, started a car two miles away.


On a more unscientific note, my ex-wife, who is three-quarters Norwegian and one-quarter dingbat, used to talk to vegetables. She could spend hours chatting with a pod of peas or an ear of corn. She did most of the talking while the vegetables listened politely without too much interruption.


One day she got some financial advice from a zucchini. Two hours later she went out and bought some brand new furniture. "It really didn't cost anything," she told me, "I put it on the credit card."


I chopped up the zucchini and put it in a salad.


One morning my ex-wife got into an argument with a kumquat. It had something to do with her new hair style -- the kumquat thought it made her look fat. She tried to get a second opinion from a yam but it ignored her, so she decided to snarl at me instead. Apparently, yams don't like to be confrontational.


I never did communicate very well with the vegetables. They prefer to communicate with entities on their own intellectual level, such as fungi, mildew, politicians and dingbats.


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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. Contact




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