My Proverbs 19
The treow stood silently on the bank of the stream. The frog quickly jumped from the rocks to the base of the visible root. Suddenly a splash was heard and two fish were seen in the shallow water near the rock. Frog and fish gazed at one another. The seasons passed and leaves fell to the ground as did the fruit of the treow. Soon similar plants began to grow. Another frog came to rest on the rock and other fish took up their guard. Still more plants grew over time and the cycle of life continued – treow or tree, land animal to sea animal. That which was gave birth to that which was to be. It was called life.
The word “treow” is an old Middle English word from whence comes the modern English word for tree. The tree appears in almost every culture in every land in all of time. Whether similar to the Persian story paraphrased here of the Haoma tree, speaking of the Acacia or Sycamore tree of the Egyptians, the Bodhi tree of the Buddhists, the Aghsan tree mentioned in the B’hai faith, or the Fusang of Chinese mythology, each culture has had a Tree of Life.
To the living, families are our tree of life. In his book “On the Origin of Species”, Charles Darwin referred to evolution as a “tangled bank”. The only illustration in the book was that of something quite similar to a tree, a diagram which branched outward.
The Acorn and the Tree – how do you see yourself? The truth is that we are all both. Many become parents and thus might change their status from that of an acorn to being the tree but while we are the tree, we are also still that acorn from which a mighty tree might well grow.
Family relationships can both make us and break us. They are the longest lasting influence on us, regardless of whether we actually know our birth family or not. Man is a pack animal, a social being. Our peers and family or lack thereof give us our first identity. In so many countries today there are living refugees and immigrants. There are not simply seen as other people but tend to be identified by their genetic physical characteristics. Called racial profiling in courts of law, one’s appearance determines how a person is seen and the response they receive in those first few seconds of acknowledgement.
One might claim not to make decisions based upon another’s appearance but few realize most of our speech is based upon exactly that. Our eyes are our first and perhaps most important sensory organ. Try eating a bite of something unknown without first seeing it and you’ll discover it probably states different. Take away the sense of smell and it most definitely will. Food designers utilize our sense of sight in creating delicious television and print advertisements. We all make decisions based upon appearance and how we relate it to our family of likes and dislikes.
Life is much more than one initial decision, though. It is also more than our beginning. The tree from which we sprang is just that – our beginning. As a writer, it is not surprise that I completely agree with Emily Dickinson when she wrote “I dwell in possibility”.
Ghandi said it best. “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
We have all seen those sprigs of green growing in-between the two slabs of concrete that make up a section of a sidewalk. No one told that plant it could not grow there although common sense would say it could not. Likewise, the bee should not be able to fly but it does, superbly. We know a great deal about science and yet, nature continues to astound us and disprove our knowledge. Life, it would seem, also dwells in possibilities.
Family relationships are sometimes positive and excellent growing grounds for success. However, others are like the stark, rough surface of concrete and seem to be completely devoid of the elements needed for life. Regardless of whatever our beginning, what we might know or have experienced of our family, at some point it is up to us to reach towards the upward trajectory that is ours for the doing.
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” This was the advice of Thomas Merton and it holds true today. Critical thinking about lessons from our past is vital but we cannot stay lost in our past. We cannot allow our present to be lost bemoaning what we did or did not have. Without our living in the present, there can be no future.
We must embrace life much like the trees. Marie Lu explains: “Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you take it all one day at a time… You try to walk in the light.” The tree does not worry about yesterday; it exists in the now of today.
We are a product of our family but it only describes us. It cannot and should not define us. We do that in our living. In his book, “Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom”, John O’Donohue scribed: “All the possibilities of your human destiny are asleep in your soul. You are here to realize and honor these possibilities. When love comes in to your life, unrecognized dimensions of your destiny awaken and blossom and grow. Possibility is the secret heart of time.”
The best family relationship is one that grows. Growth is always occurring even though we may not see the evidence. Have faith and trust that, in life, science and nature come together. As Ilyas Kassam eloquently puts it, “If nature has taught us anything it is that the impossible is probable.” Family plants the seed but it is up to us, each individual, to make it blossom and bear fruit.
My Proverb 19
The seed within needs only the light of hope to produce seeds of success, nurtured by dreams, fed by belief. My soul’s home is the heart of all who love me and that is my growing ground.