Thursday, May 2, 2013

Satisfied with an Audience of One

On a trip to Jeju Island, the Culture of Life columnist for the Peace Weekly confesses that she found the aroma of the wormwood plant so fragrant she decided to take home some seeds of the plant. Two weeks after planting, with no sign of life sprouting from the pot, she felt the urge to dig into the soil to see what the problem could be, but she resisted, remembering Mencius' parable of the overanxious farmer.

The farmer had returned home from the field one evening dead tired, and told the family he had spent the whole day helping the plants grow. The son, wanting to see what his father had done, went to the field and saw that all the seedlings were strewn on the ground, dried-up and dead. Puzzled by what he had seen, he asked his father why he had pulled up all the plants. The father said that after seeing his neighbor's seedlings doing much better than his own, he was so overcome by the desire to help the seedlings grow faster he gave each one of them a little tug.

What the farmer did is all too common, says the columnist, in the lives of many of us. We tend to ignore the simple fact that there is a time for everything: When we are hungry for rice, we first have to boil the water. No matter how cold we are in the winter, the winter has to pass before we can greet the spring. If we lack the patience to wait for the natural maturation of things, we will be acting like Mencius' farmer and doing harm. The farmer only destroyed a field crop, but if we are ignorant of the natural flow of life, interfering by forcing the flow to move according to our desires, we can, she says, destroy a life.

She compares us to flowers that have an innate time to bloom. If, for instance, fall flowers considered spring flowers, in all their glorious blooming, their competitors, the fall flowers would be stressed, she says, and not able to receive the necessary nutrients to blossom as they should. In fact, she says, fall flowers have more depth and dignity than spring flowers. Unhealthy competition is not good for any plant or any human. We should do the best we can, she advises. Competition, if it's present, should be with ourselves.

It's foolish to compare the beauty of one flower with that of another. Each flower, she points out, has its own particular beauty. What is sad is to arrive at the season to flower and we don't. This often happens in a competitive society when we compare ourselves with others. Those younger than ourselves, working within the same corporation, she says, who may have advanced organizationally beyond us should not bother us in any way. To increase the vitality of our own lives, she suggests that we believe in ourselves, refrain from comparing ourselves with others, and be content to be who we are and do what we do. As Christians we should be content to have an audience of one.

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