Death and Taxonomies

In Seattle’s arboretum, there are many crisscross trails. Beside one of these trails, there is a sign. I have read it, and it says:

Taxonomy is the branch of biology that deals with the naming and grouping of life. The original plan for the park arranged our plant collections by family. While this approach works from a taxonomic perspective, every gardener knows that one must put the right plant in the right place if it is to thrive. For that reason, later plantings were arranged for horticultural and aesthetic purposes, rather than by plant family.

When dealing with plants, it is more important to assemble those that grow well together than to distinguish similar plants.


In the co-op market where I shop, there are neatly intersecting aisles. Each aisle has a sign describing its contents.

The aisles are a taxonomy of foodstuffs. Baking supplies are all in one place, and once I have found them, I have therefore found all the flours and all the sugars. Because I see them all at once, I can compare varieties of each by cost, appearance, and reputation. While this lets me buy what I choose, every baker knows you must combine ingredients in the right quantity if the cake is to be tasty. For that reason, I follow a recipe.

When dealing with cakes, it is more important to mix everything in the correct ratio than to buy the best ingredients.


When dealing with people, it is more important to bring together the right perspectives than to name each person’s qualities.