How Does your Garden Grow?


Learning to Speak (and Listen) with Wisdom and Intelligence

I fancy myself a bit of a gardener.

I don’t grow anything exotic or even all that special, but I have about 100 square feet of flowers in my back yard and another 50 or so square feet out front. It’s mostly bulbs and other perennials, things like tulips, daffodils, and lilies that I supplement each spring with a selection of annuals. I like looking at the variety of colours as they come and go throughout the season and there is something primal about digging in the dirt that satisfies my caveman instincts.

This year I got brave and added a strawberry bush, here’s hoping.

I planted everything this past weekend and when I was looking at my handy work, I was reminded of something I heard a long time ago. The 13th century Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, more commonly referred to simply as Rumi, once said –

Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that makes the flowers grow, not thunder.

The meaning here should be fairly obvious; when faced with conflict or embroiled in a heated discussion Rumi advises not to yell but to speak with wisdom and intelligence. People learn and grow best when information is presented calmly, like a gentle rain, not through loud and violent outbursts.

We live in a very polarized society. You are either conservative or liberal, capitalist or socialist, inclusive or exclusive, with us or against us. It seems more and more that people are less and less likely to listen to anyone who expresses opinions contrary to our own, let alone have a calm and intelligent discussion about them. How are we to learn and grow if all we do is loudly dismiss and discredit anything we disagree with?

Last week I talked about confirmation bias, which in one sense is our tendency to look for and associate only with people with whom agree. The best way I know how to combat confirmation bias is to listen and learn from people from all walks of life and those with whom we might disagree. Associating across various socio-economic and political lines might not be enough to change our opinions about things but we might at least learn something.

Remember – You don’t know what you don’t know, so raise your words, not your voice. Who knows, you might win someone over and gain a new friend or at the very least learn something new that you hadn’t considered before.

 

As Continents Burn


A Semi-Poetic Reflection on the Nature of Reality

Half a world away,
A crisis is unfolding.

 

Some say the crisis has been here a long time,
we are just now noticing.
Some say it is not really a crisis at all.
Others say that how we respond will define humanity for generations.
Still others say it is already too late,
The choices before us are about adaptation and a new normal.

 

Some blame our governments.
Some blame the corporations.
Some blame each other.
Some just wish we would all shut up about and go hang out at the mall.

 

What is this crisis?

 

Some say it is climate change.
Some say it is the economy.
Some say our way of life is under attack.
Some say we must impose our values on others for the sake of “love” and “order”.

 

We all say a lot of things,
But is anybody listening?
Is anybody doing?

 

Australia is burning.
But it could just as easily be the Amazon,
Or the Serengeti,
Or cousin Ed’s house down the road.

 

An entire continent could be lost.
We can’t even agree on what’s happening,
Or how,
Or why.

 

Will reducing waste solve it?
Travelling less, taking public transit more?
Eating less meat, carrying reusable water bottles?
Will recycling and buying local solve it?

 

“Conflict arises at the point of perception vs reality.”
I read that in a book once.
Or at least I got the idea from a book, it is not an exact quote.
The author was talking about personal turmoil.
I think it applies here too.
How we perceive impacts how we interact.
What we value impacts the pieces we choose to ignore.
If we perceive incorrectly and reality disagrees, conflict.

 

Reality always wins in the end.
We can ignore it,
We can try to fight against it,
Objective, scientific, physical reality cannot be willed into non-existence.

 

To be anti-science, is to be anti-reality.
You can question science.
You can continue to collect data and test theories,
but at some point, you are going to have to accept what the results tell you.

 

The crisis we current face is multifaceted.
It is not just about climate change,
or economics,
or values.
It is all these things and none of them at the same time.
It is truly a crisis of perception vs reality.

 

Until we agree on the parameters that define reality,
We will continue to argue about perception.

 

As continents burn.