Sunday, November 22, 2015

Flowers and Candles

"A Blossom in the Thorns"
 - At the Desert Retreat House -


While browsing through the social media over the past few days I kept coming across a little  video that has gone viral - a tender exchange between a dad and his young son as they sit in the blood-soaked streets of a public square in Paris on the day after the massacre.

In the video the sad and frightened boy laments that they must now leave their home because “bad guys” have come with their guns to shoot them, and the dad comforts his child and re-assures him that they won’t have to pack up and “get out of town” because of what happened in those streets. He tells his little boy that there will always be “bad guys” everywhere but then he points to all the good people in the public square lighting candles and laying flowers over the stones stained in blood. He tells the boy “Look at that, see we don’t have to worry because we have the flowers and the candles.”

The little boy asks his dad what flowers and candles can do to bad guys carrying guns and shooting bullets?  The dad tells him:

The flowers and the candles are here to protect us

I think this video is so touching, not only because it is such a tender scene of a parent comforting his frightened child but also because it makes a deep “existential” statement about the very nature of life itself: in the end flowers and candles are far more powerful than guns, in the end love always overcomes hate.

Every time I see that “video gone viral” on the social media I am reminded of something Gandhi once said:

Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent
than the one derived from fear.

There are some who may see garlands of flowers on blood-covered streets and, like that little boy question how the stem of a rose or the flame of a candle might possibly protect anyone against the might of guns and bullets and yet, when all was said and done, it was the crowds of people with the flowers and candles who prevailed on those streets and not the few deranged “bad buys” with the guns.

Out here in the desert where I live, the world of nature continually teaches me a lesson about the nature of life. The desert terrain is always dry and rocky, and the landscape is peppered with ugly thorny cacti. But there are no more beautiful blossoms ever to be found than the ones that spring out of the thorns of the cacti in that dry and rocky soil.

There is a saying often attributed to the Buddha:

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

I find great wisdom in this little saying. A single desert flower blooming from the most ominous-looking thorns in such a dry and desolate place teaches me a life-changing lesson: in our driest places we can find the greatest beauty and the brightest light. Even when hatred is planted, love will ultimately blossom.

When you are honesty able to believe this, then what that dad said to his little boy on that viral video becomes more than a nice sentiment that might be used on a hallmark card. It is in fact an existential “truth” about the very nature of life itself.

Yes, there are “bad guys” everywhere, but

The flowers and the candles are here to protect us.

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