A favorite image in the pop psychology and self-help literature is that of a flower or a weed growing out of a crack of a concrete city sidewalk. I think of the analogy sometimes when I sweep my driveway and walks. The cement is still fairly new, yet, there are a few places where hardy weeds have made a home.
I think it’s interesting that such tender things as plants can take root in hard substances such as concrete and rocks. It’s even more interesting how they can actually break up the same hard surfaces. Geologists and botonists have shown that plants have contributed to the breaking down of large rocks into smaller stones and eventually even smaller particles.
All plants need is enough organic matter trapped inside of a small dent or crack to begin their little lives. If they’re sturdy enough, the roots will find imperfections. Over time, this activity will force the crack to become larger. As the root system becomes stronger and larger, the rock or cement crumbles under the strain. There are other plants that use minerals from the hard surface as nutrients. They are able to extract those from rock, which in turn, weakens the rock.
As a metaphor, this action has been interpreted in a few ways by writers and thinkers throughout the ages. The most popular one is that we can use seemingly impossible, hard situations as a way to personal growth. The roots pressing against the crack in the rock can be compared to weight-lifting on a physical level or building courage on a mental level.
You might also think of an adverse situation as food for growth. We learn from difficult or hard problems. If life is too easy, we won’t become strong or smart. I like both comparisons a lot. Thinking of them can keep me on track when I’m going through some sort of crisis or hardship.
The saying about crisis situations says, “…between a rock and a hard place.” My own personal saying is, “…between a rock and a soft place.”
You can be confronted with a hard problem or life situation. But us humans are soft, squishy beings. We somehow manage to overcome most of our hard problems with our relatively soft muscles, put in motion by our soft brain tissue. When you think about this activity, you become amazed. As a soft, vulnerable species, we’ve managed to literally move mountains and build grand monuments.
Another, lesser known comparison is a bit deeper. As a society, we like to have instant results regarding just about everything in life. The problem with that mindset is that we don’t take the time to properly prepare the rocky mindscape before we initiate an activity. To grow a garden of tasty fruits and veggies, we need to till the ground so that the seeds will germinate. The prepared surface will enable the plants to thrive; to give us food.
By learning to practice compassion, acceptance, love and contemplation, we are able to plant the seeds for a happy, fulfilling, wholesome life. When we all till the hard surfaces of our minds and cultivate the fruitful qualities, society harvests a harmonious, free, happy civilization that blooms and blooms with benefits for all.
A society that fails to go beyond hard, inflexible attitudes and opinions is unable to nurture the fruits and flowers of true love and compassion. All the society will see is superficial imitations of cooperation and love. No more than that.
When we do not nourish ourselves on love, acceptance and compassion, we gorge ourselves on self-centeredness and agression. The inflexible attitudes and opinions only give rise to another dark age.
If we want ourselves and society to flourish and thrive, those of us who can grow in the hard places must not only feel our way with our roots; but we must blossom and bear compassionate, accepting and loving fruits. To do that, we need to remember to till our hard minds with mindfulness and awareness.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Seneca the Younger today. “No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing, it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley.”