Last month, the air and ground in my neighborhood was filled with the fuzzy fluff from cottonwood trees. This spring was also noteworthy for an overabundance of dandelions in town. These are examples of plants that use the flow of wind to propagate their species.
Earlier this week, I stumbled across a video on YouTube that claimed certain varieties of small spiders and spider-lings use electric fields to fly surprising distances through the air. Biologists are beginning to understand more about how the tiny creatures use gossamer threads of their silk to ride air currents.
There are many types of plants and animals that get around by going with the flow. Fish and other marine animals also come to mind. Even humans have historically traveled with the flow of rivers, ocean currents, and wind.
So many things go with the flow that I now remember an old country song that Charlie Rich made famous, “Rollin With The Flow”. It was a big crossover hit back in the 1970s. The refrain, “So I keep on rollin’ with the flow” is looping through my mind right now.
The idea about going with the flow as a way to live one’s life is more complicated than it appears at first glance. On one hand, to go with the flow is taught by wisdom teachers around the world as a metaphor about life and acceptance. On the other hand, there are many people who caution about the dangers of going with the flow or being too passive. The old saying comes to mind, “Even dead fish go with the flow.”
There are obvious reasons to go with the flow in our lives. It’s very smart to blend into the flow of highway traffic when driving because going against the flow will result in a head-on collision. When queuing in line for lunch at a cafeteria, it is best not to interfere with the flow of other patrons in order to avoid conflict or risk getting kicked out of the establishment.
So, we often go along in order to get along. However, if one takes this mindset much further, we encounter the hazards of conformity. Maybe we are afraid to draw attention to ourselves, so we wear the same clothing styles, eat similar foods, consume similar mass entertainment, think and believe similar talking points from pundits who exploit the human tendency to travel in packs.
New ideas and progress come from people who do not go with the flow. They cherish thinking for themselves and allow curiosity to run rampant. They often clash with the current Zeitgeist of our culture. They’re true social and technological pioneers of each age. Think of Nikola Tesla or Buckminster Fuller. They thought their own original thoughts and arrived at their own, independent conclusions about various questions and problems.
It is when we live according to a path other than the popular one, that we encounter another flow. The flow of mental imagining and creativity. Athletes, artists, writers, inventors, and other innovators sometimes call this state of mind “the zone” or experiencing Zen moments. This flow of mental and physical activity is perhaps the high-point of living. When it happens, we surrender to its mysterious flow. The end results are usually astonishing. How often do you go with that flow?
So, while our lives consist of time flowing moment to moment, we need to remember that these moments are not frozen. Life, like time, flows on and so will we. We only need to be selective about when to go with the flow of social traffic. Sometimes we need to go with an alternative flow.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is inspired by something written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. “When I am traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep: it is on such occasions that ideas flow best and most abundantly.”