Reflections on Free Flowers, Good Work, and Root Cause

Autumn, a season of harvest, in the field, and in the heart. Here are some recent reflections.

1. Would you like a free flower?

On Friday afternoon, a colleague was giving away her vase of fresh flower that would otherwise die over the weekend in the empty office. Another colleague joked, someone should take it on the bus and hand it to people.

What a great idea! So I took the flowers after work, and walked along the Embarcadero and handed them to strangers. “Would you like a free flower?” I asked whoever was passing by.

All were surprised, half were glad, half were suspicious. Some accepted with a smile. Some said, “I don’t want it, but I will take one for my wife/cousin.” Some dismissed me, with the usual distrust on their face, as if I was a beggar. Yes, they were right. I was begging. I was begging for their trust, begging for them to open their heart. 

It feels scary and vulnerable to hand flowers to strangers on the road. But keep smiling, because the flowers are.

2. Two types of good work

There are two types of “good work.” One type, you’d be proud to tell family and friends at Thanksgiving dinner table. People would understand your work, and pat you on the back for making the world a better place.

The other type of good work is difficult to explain. Most people don’t want to hear about it. Those who hear about it won’t listen. Those who listen won’t understand. Those who understand would want to jail you (Mandela), harm you (Gandhi), or even nail you on a cross (Jesus).

What type of good work would you choose?

3. The root cause has been the same, all along

Many say that the ecological crisis is the crisis of our time. This one is different from the succession of crises in human history, because the problem is global in scale, and affects not just our own species, but all life on Earth.

Some say that the root of our crisis is population. Some say it is business, or consumption, or lack of innovation, or economic model. Some was brave enough to question the dominant religion of our time -- market capitalism.

What is exactly the root cause? How is our current ecological crisis different from the crises throughout history that have brought down nations, empires, and civilizations? Is there something fundamental in human nature that has been manifesting its dark forces in all the different ways? Are we addressing the root cause as we try to solve for each crisis?

Gandhi’s fight against colonialism is not just a fight against the British empire; it is a fight against the violence and prejudice in our hearts. Martin Luther King’s march against racism is not just a march for Civil Rights; it is a call for justice and peace in our hearts. Buddha’s teachings that challenged the caste system, Jesus’ teachings that threatened the corrupted establishment of the priesthood and of the Roman Empire, these teachings were using whatever was the timely issue at hand to teach the timeless lessons of the heart -- the inner peace, the eternal liberation. The root cause has always been inside, in each and everyone of us.

Similarly, the ecological crisis of the 21st Century is not just about the environment, but about the malaise in our hearts that has plagued us for millennia -- the greed that has reincarnated as “perpetual growth,” the selfishness that has morphed into “rational choice,” the blindness that has adopted the name of “shareholder value maximization.” Call it the Seven Deadly Sins. Call it the illusion. Call it whatever, as long as we know the root cause is as old as history.

This time is indeed different, but only in the sense that the cost of inaction is too great to allow for a second chance. If we can use this unprecedented crisis to accelerate the awakening taught by the Buddha, Jesus, and other wise beings, then we can say that we have not wasted a good, timely crisis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully articulated, thanks!