Monday, April 15, 2013

What Kind of Seeds Are You Planting?

Today is Monday, April 15, 2013. 

"Think well about the seeds you are planting as you influence the people around you every day.  You can plant seeds of impatience, fear, and frustration, or of love, contentment, and faith.  It's up to you!"

 You reap what you sow.  What goes around, comes around.  We've all heard these types of advice, and yet we often act as if we don't believe them.  Maybe some people don't believe them, I don't know...  The fact remains that we have only the present moment in which to take action in order to create our future, and what we do now affects not only our own lives, but that of others.

This morning I was thinking that if I don't call the beauty salon today, I won't remember to get an appointment for Friday, and if I don't get my laundry done today, I won't have anything to wear tomorrow.  I thought how nice it would be to have a clean bathroom, and realized that I needed to get my towels and bath mat in the wash today, too.  I was also thinking that if I don't get a few blog posts written in advance, I will miss my self-imposed deadline while I'm on the road later in the week. 

There's still snow on the ground here, although it's melting pretty fast.  In some places there is still quite a lot, and it seems that Old Man Winter is refusing this year to exit gracefully in order to give way to spring.  Still, this is the time of year that gardeners firm up their plans for their summer gardens.  Their thoughts turn to the seeds they will order and plant as soon as Mother Nature is ready to be hospitable.

There are a lot of expressions about seeds in our language: seeds of change, seeds of destruction, ideas that germinate, going to seed, seed money, seed ideas.  It seems that human beings have always been in awe of the miracle inherent in a tiny seed being planted and then changing size and form.  Thousands of years ago, people wondered why some seeds grew and others didn't.  They attributed it to a God or gods who allowed their crops to grow when they were pleased or destroyed them out of anger.  Later, human beings began to realize that their own behavior might be influencing God's, so they invented all kinds of rituals to ensure good crops.  Sacrifices of all kinds were offered, including human beings.  The Aztecs, for example, practiced human sacrifice as a way of ensuring not only good crops, but the very existence of all creation. 

Nowadays, most human beings are aware that it's not the sacrifices that ensure a good harvest, but our own actions.  We are the ones who must till the soil, plant the seeds, irrigate and weed the fields, and protect our crops from predators.  We are the ones who must harvest the crops.  And although we respect the fact that Mother Nature is not always as kind as we would wish, we know that the storms, the lightning, the fires and floods are not meant as punishment for our misdeeds.  Truly, we do reap what we sow. 

Thinking of the quote above, I wondered how it is that we sow seeds of impatience.  When I came back to the United States from a decade spent living in Japan, I was struck by the fact that Americans value convenience over just about everything else.  We eat at fast food places and drive fast cars on highways that stretch from sea to shining sea.  Those of us who live in areas that don't have a good mass transit system would never dream of giving up our cars.  

We wear fabrics nowadays that are easy to clean and keep wrinkle-free.  Almost nobody wears linen these days.  Production of linen is time-consuming and labor-intensive.  Plus, it stinks – seriously!  They say that production of handmade linen produces a very unpleasant stench.  And it's a bitch to iron.  Not convenient at all.  Even 100% cotton clothing is hard to find these days, although it's not that hard to keep wrinkle-free if you use a dryer.  

In the area of health care, we want our doctors to hurry up and make us well, the faster the better, because nobody has time to be sick.  We insist that our doctors give us some medicine, the more powerful, the better.  We would rather not have to monitor and limit our own diet and lifestyle, preferring to wait until health issues come to a head, then solving the problem with chemicals or surgery.  We look forward to a magic cure for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and a host of other diseases, forgetting that part of the reason they are with us is due to our chosen lifestyle.  We dismiss so-called "alternative" health care modalities because they take too long, or they require visit after visit to the chiropractor, the herbalist, the naturopath, or the homeopath.  Nobody stops to think that the cost of visiting one of these healers each week for a year is still a drop in the bucket compared with having one or more back surgeries, for example, especially if we happen to have health insurance that shields us from the true cost of health care. 

The concept of convenience has come to shape many areas of our lives.  It's why we use phones with buttons instead of a dial, why we use computers instead of typewriters, and why we buy things at huge all-in-one-place discount stores and shopping malls.   It's why we dismiss the idea of electric cars that might not be able to go very far on one charge.  It's why we remain dependent on fossil fuels instead of bothering to find ways to use cleaner, more earth-friendly sources of energy.  It's also why we (Americans, at least) shy away from helping strangers or going out of our way to assist friends.  We rarely think of these things as sowing seeds of impatience, but that's exactly what we are doing.  When we do these things, we negate the value of quality in our relationships, our work, and in the things we use, pride in a job well done, enjoyment of beauty for its own sake, and the importance of helping others, even when it is inconvenient for us, or even a little risky.

There have always been those who warn against economic collapse, particularly among fiscal conservatives, but ever since the American economy seriously began to tank and drag the world economy down the drain with it, these people have been running around telling us that they've been predicting this all along, and now the sky is truly falling.  The racists among us are upset that there is a black man in the White House, even if his mother was white, and they are convinced that America is going to hell in a hand basket.  Certain Christians are sure that there is a war going on against their religion, citing as evidence every little example of not getting their way.  Others are raising the alarm about GMO seeds and crops, warning against allowing giant corporations like Monsanto to pollute and control the world's food supply.  There are people who still go to bed every night with a fear that there will be another terrorist attack on the United States like the one that happened on September 11th in New York nearly a dozen years ago.  Some believe that the events of 9/11 were secretly orchestrated by the U.S. government, or by those they call the Illuminati.  Many people are afraid that the Illuminati, in the guise of Big Banks, Big Oil, and Big Pharma, are plotting to take over the world, if they haven't already.  All of these fears have a kernel of truth in them, but also a lot of fluff, hot air, sand.  So what if any of these things actually happens or have happened?  Life will either go on or it won't.  If it doesn't, what's the sense of worrying about it?  And if it does... what's the sense of worrying about that?  All we are doing is sowing the seeds of fear.   When we do this, we are just adding to the general burden of misery that the bulk of humankind seems to drag around like so much baggage. 

These days, public schools in states that haven't already thrown off the yoke of No Child Left Behind are under pressure to give their students a whole battery of standardized tests every year in order to prove "adequate yearly progress," a purely arbitrary and unreasonable standard.  Meanwhile, the bright kids are held back, and the struggling students never quite make the standard, never quite catch up.  Talk about sowing the seeds of frustration!   

The U.S. Congress can't seem to agree on equal pay for men and women, or equal pay for equal work.  Despite the Equal Pay Act signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, there are still disparities.  The Violence Against Women Act, originally signed in 1994,  was recently reauthorized, but it is estimated that 1 out of every 5 women will still be raped in her lifetime.   The fate of marriage equality for those who challenge our traditional definition of the institution of marriage hangs on the decision of the Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, many people cannot marry their loved ones or assist with their partner's end-of-life care because it is illegal to do so.  Seeds of frustration.

How about planting seeds of love?  Those of us who are trying to convince the current administration of the federal government not to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline are doing so because we want to avoid contamination of the earth and all the terrible consequences that would follow, not only within our own lifetime, but for future generations.  We are attempting to plant seeds of love for Mother Earth and for our own descendants.  Those of us who volunteer for duty at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food shelves are also planting seeds of love for the neediest among us.  

There are lots of small ways in which we can sow the seeds of love.  We can smile at a stranger.  We can respond with politeness to a sales call, realizing that after all, the person on the other end is just doing a job, and a very low-paid one, at that.  We can pick up after ourselves and contribute to the order of our living space and our surroundings in general, rather than leaving them in a state of chaos.  We can spend time with loved ones and resolve to give them our full attention while we are with them.  (Yes, that means putting down your smart phone, your iPod, or your book, and turning off the TV.) 

To sow seeds of contentment, we can do all we have agreed to do, and resolve to cross everything off our to-do list as soon as possible. We can learn to meditate and take time to enjoy the beauty of nature, art, and music.  We can set aside time to count our blessings and be grateful for what we have in our lives.   To sow the seeds of faith, we must learn to listen to God and develop a relationship of trust with the Divine Presence. 

Think about your own life.  What have you done in the past 24 hours, the past week, the past year to sow seeds for the future?  What kinds of seeds have you sown, and which of them has germinated?  How have you nurtured those seeds to bring them to fruition?  How will you nurture the seeds you are planting today?   :-)

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