“When occupations come to us, we must accept them; when things come to us, we must understand them from the ground up” – Master Lu-tsu, The Secret of the Golden Flower
“Contemplate the earth now, for it is from the earth that the ultimate solution will come.” – C.G. Jung
This has been a season of exuberance. In spite of my tendency to gravitate toward the dark, I cannot resist the mirth of spring. It’s true! Since the first patches of shooting stars appeared on the grassy hillsides near my home, I’ve been light hearted. Later, when the lupine and poppies came up, I could barely contain my joy. The sight of of sunflowers, goldfields, and tidy tips has made me childish with glee.
To stay indoors these days is a foolish proposition. To go into the office seems ridiculous. Laundry is absurd. What used to feel so important – work, meetings, appointments – has slipped into the background of nature’s parade. Certainly, if I am not careful these flowers are going to lead me to the madhouse.
But even amid spring’s laughter there remains a thread of darkness below the surface, a dim tell-tale that not all things can remain light and cheery. Because Nature, herself, is dark.
The life of a wildflower is simply too short. Even as I write this, the hillsides, once moist and verdant, are turning into an ordinary brown. I seek higher elevations hoping to find more, but here too the ground is already drying up and the foxtails assault my socks. It’s hot and I am aware of snakes. Eventually, the extroversion of summer will dominate the flowers and they will be gone.
The flower’s purpose is to reproduce itself, over and over. Usually a hermaphrodite, each flower contains its own seeds and semen, ovules and pollen. From the tip of the stamen the quivering anthers release their pollen into the tiny ovules – the future seeds and the anticipation of another spring. The color and fragrance of flowers attract insects and birds, further spreading the nectar of life. One could say the flower is complete unto itself, needing no one except the passing admirer of her beauty.
Harlotry, indeed. These painted ladies possess the gift of seduction. Irresistibly, they turn our gaze from the lofty heights and draw us down to earth. They spellbind us, hypnotize us, make us drunk on their splendor. And, like Persephone, they bring us closer to the clutches of Hades and to the land of the dead.
Why are we so attracted to that which is so short-lived? What draws us to that which we cannot possess?
Impermanence fertilizes our yearning. Yearning creates suffering. And, as much as I hate to admit it, the suffering of unfulfilled yearning is soulful. No wonder, although many of us love the light, we return to the dark. In the dark soil of suffering we crack open to our own crazy shit. In our yearning we can no longer be so painstakingly sane, rational, and controlled. We can no longer lie to ourselves about who we are and what we desire most.
“The longing of the darkness for light is fulfilled only when the light can no longer be rationally explained”, writes Jung.
And on one miraculous day, and with all the force of the world, we push ourselves up from beneath the hard, impermeable ground only to realize that we are not the flower, but rather, the flower is us.
Flowers come and go so readily. By their very nature they will not be grasped, imitated, or understood. Nor will the self. Nor will god.
Act and you ruin it.
Grasp and you lose it.
Therefore the Sage
Does not act
And so does not ruin
Ku wu pai
Does not grasp
And so does not lose.
– Tao Te Ching