Weeding is not like washing dishes or cleaning up the children's room _ another one of those passionless exercises in utility. Nor is weeding the dull, endless chore that someone _ anybody _ ought to do one of these days to get rid of those unwanted plants that divert moisture and nourishment from your flowers and vegetables.

Weeding is the assignment for the theologian and the district attorney lurking in us. And it doesn't take long to conclude that the more stern the gardener, the more effective.

We must keep in mind that weeds are rampant and promiscuous growth. They are plants that have not been improved to serve the purposes of man and civilization; theirs is the original unlegislated chaos of vegetation.

Weeds are squatters and cheats, hooligans and thieves. They have got nothing to offer but a punk's talent for fouling up the most desirable spots in the garden. We can only say "No" to them and defend ourselves against their arrogant demand to live and to spread and to dominate.

Weeding is to be done methodically, consistently, and with an unswerving, absolute certainty in what is right and what is wrong. There must be no hint of tolerance; we fool ourselves when permitting the luxury of compassion. Trendy speculation to the effect that chickweed too should be allowed to live, that dandelions are kind of pretty, or that crabgrass could be considered an experimental alternative to fescue, must be suppressed. Ruthlessly.

There can be no delay by reference to due process, no pretext of lassitude and, finally, no mercy -- lest transgressions grow roots deep and lateral, and error inherit the earth. Weeds are what man has banished from his garden. A flower bed or a vegetable patch freed from weeds is like a soul cleansed, a self liberated. And a gardener who has accomplished such a feat is the most proud, self-righteous and smug soul in all of creation.