July 11, 2017

A Certain Tortoise Once Told Me...

Everyone loves a good cause to get behind. Facebook, Twitter, the news, and all the other media sources all exist because people have some kind of natural yearning to voice an opinion or rally behind a cause of some kind. Politicians and preachers all make their livings because we have a tendency to flare up about topics that need to be known or passions that are always smoldering, just waiting to combust. The only problem that we all so often forget about (at the risk of sounding like a virility drug commercial) is stamina and fortitude. Our passions are so easily inflamed and it can be such an invigorating feeling to be passionate about a cause that it’s too easy to get lost in the blaze of emotion and then burn out like dry paper, fast and hot, but only for a precious few moments, leaving whatever cause originally ignited us huddling near our ashes and shivering for more warmth.

There’s all sorts of things that cause this—real things that deserve our passions. Somewhere in a different country, innocent children are being killed to make a political statement. People are held in bondage, physically, economically, and even locked in fear for their lives on a daily basis because those more powerful than them just enjoy their power. Historical buildings and sacred relics are carelessly blown up by zealous extremists. All these things should inflame us and make us angry. But, what do we do about it?

But, in other news, someone spent grueling hours to save homeless animals. People volunteered time away from their families to help other families in need of food or shelter. Your friend helped their sick and elderly parents get meals to their house and put things in order while they couldn’t leave the bed. These things are all wonderful stories that should move us to compassion and inspire us to action. We might share the story with our friends and think fondly about it for a few minutes before going back to watching cat videos, but what do we do about it?

But, what to we really do about it?
Still, in other news, a scientist posted a video talk about why he thinks religious interest groups are ruining education in public schools. A priest leading a protest against planned parenthood clinics gave an interview on how secularism is leading the world to ruin. But, thankfully, a there’s also a new spiritual guru that’s here to offer you groundbreaking secrets on how to improve your life, give you a more positive outlook, and free your soul to explore higher realms of consciousness. These things all inflame us to take a stance one way or another, to protest or defend, to join in or sign up (and they all likely contain some truth and some error). But, what to we really do about it?

An old parable tells a story of seeds that are tossed on the ground by a careless planter, some on his bare walking path, others on shallow ground, more among thorny weeds, and the rest on the fertile soil. Even to those of us who aren’t botanically inclined can likely guess how the rest goes—the seeds on the bare path are quickly eaten by birds, the seeds on the shallow ground take root for a little while, but die off pretty quickly for lack of nourishment, the ones among the weeds are choked out and also die off, while the seeds on good ground take the longest to sprout, but grow into full and healthy plants. Personally, I don’t know jack about gardening, but the whole thing adds up fairly well in terms of plain old common sense.

The story applies to real life in all the various ways I spent so much real estate on already. Social media is the place to go if you want your passions ignited, or else why would folks spend so much time and such intense attention on it? But, what does it all really mean in the long term? The same goes for political or religious fervor. Charismatic leaders in every sector of life spend their careers rallying us in this direction and that, but how much do they actually educate us? How often do they scatter us around on the bare path, just so we get snatched up by the hungry crows? If you think about it, you’ll remember all the times we’ve fallen on shallow dirt that was easy to take root in, just to fizzle out on our cause quickly because we didn’t have enough intellectual nourishment or well-developed habits to keep us going for the long haul. It can be so easy to fall in among groups of thorny weeds that welcome us into the group just to suck us dry for all we’re worth and leave us behind before we even know what hit us.

You have to read something longer than a Twitter post or sit through something longer than a YouTube clip.
The fertile ground, though, that’s the harder path. It may sound like a great place to take root—soft, nutrient rich soil with plenty of room to grow. But, a seed has to take its time and stretch its roots down deep to grow in this kind of ground. It’s not quick nor easy. It takes patience and understanding, the kind where you have to read something longer than a Twitter post or sit through something longer than a YouTube clip. A certain tortoise once told me that slow and steady wins the race. He then slowly ate all my lettuce and casually pooped on my floor, but the advice is good nonetheless.

If you get fired up over something, that’s good. It means your blood is still pumping and your brain is still nice and squishy and ready to engage with the world. But, just remember that to really make a change, either in yourself or in your surroundings, it’s the long haul that makes the difference. Fad diets and trendy exercise routines may make you lose weight quick, but only a real lifestyle change keeps it off. Radical politics may seem like a revolution, but the revolution eventually comes to an end and needs level-headed leadership. Charismatic spirituality may send you soaring to the clouds, but you’ll usually end up falling back down in a hole unless you really understand what you’re a part of. Take the time to plant your roots deep, suck up all the knowledge you can, and then spread your leaves to show the world who’s plant… I mean boss.