'Being There' - Garden Wisdom for the Ages

Peter Sellers in 'Being There' 

One of my favorite movies is "Being There," a 1979 film starring Peter Sellers. 

It was directed by Hal Ashby, adapted from a novella by Jerzy Kozinski.

  Sellers plays Chance, the gardener, who tends the grounds of an estate in Washington, DC.  

'Being There' movie poster

Chance has the mind of a child (the role is a forerunner to Forrest Gumpand knows only two things:  gardening and TV.

  He is reclusive and illiterate and has lived and worked on this property his entire life. 

When his boss, the Old Man, dies at the beginning of the film he finds himself on the street and is soon inadvertently walking the halls of power and prestige. 

His encounters with highly placed people are very funny. They are charmed by his simplicity and honesty. 

They think 'Chauncy Gardiner' is a wise and profound man who uses metaphors of the garden to answer deep and thorny questions, when, of course, gardening is all he knows.

Peter Sellers in 'Being There'

He quickly rises to public prominence and becomes a media sensation. The film  exposes a society deeply in need of simple truths amidst its manipulations and self-serving follies.  

He only knows gardening and so his answers are from the garden: 

'Chance the Gardener' in the Garden

President "Bobby": Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
[Long pause]
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President "Bobby": In the garden.

Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President "Bobby": Spring and summer.

President "Bobby": Then fall and winter.

Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.

Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!

President "Bobby": Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time.

[Benjamin Rand applauds]

President "Bobby": I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

Chance the Gardener with the President

 'Being There' is an endearing film, a black comedy, that portrays a man who lives in the present moment... 

like the Tao that says, "happiness comes not from recognizing that we are all part of a great flow: it comes merely from flowing", 

Chance the Gardener is as soft and yielding as flowing water that dissolves the hard and inflexible. 

photo by Ben Wa

We all know this is true but how many of us can put it into practice?  

Gardening - as Chance would tell us - helps us do that. 

The Gardener Philosopher is something to be. 


  1. Hi Jan, what a wonderful post, thank you. I love your blog!

  2. Using Biltmore was a brilliant stroke. I'll always remember the final scene with Chance walking on water. A wonderful film, for sure. Thanks, Jan, for reminding me of it.

    1. Hi Pat! Yes, this film is perfect for you and me....

  3. I have never heard of this movie. I will track it down to watch. I always have loved Peter Sellers.

  4. An excellent film and it holds up remarkably well.


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