While I am a spiritual person, I haven’t joined an organized religion for decades. Listening to others, some are dogmatically committed to one and only one belief system — declaring their way is right and the only way. It may be right for them, I agree, but it doesn’t mean it is right for me.
The Cherokee name is based on the meaning “people of different speech.” Could that include thought and opinion as well?
Hearing a close friend express her strong opinions (without knowing they opposed mine) stung. But, for one moment only. Because in valuing the qualities of our friendship more than opinions, I felt love for my friend, not anger or resentment.
The same holds true when I hear discourse among various religious groups.
To me, the identic message is simply presented in varying ways and on varying paths all leading to a preferred destination — call it Heaven, enlightenment, living consciously, or a spiritual awakening per se’…even if it’s just a belief system or developing faith. Even if the path chosen changes tomorrow, the message is basically the same.
Be inclusive. Find the shared good.
People connect with God, the Universe, Buddha, the Tao, or other powers greater than themselves. One size doesn’t fit all, and I find value in each. I hear the common themes yet also see invidious power and exclusivity when one is proclaimed as right or the better way…different somehow.
I grew up in an era of healthy debates. Where one could find mutual ground. Today I question “where do I wish to focus — on differences or commonalities? What feels better — emotionally, mentally, physically? If being inclusive and finding common good should feel better, why is mankind’s history peppered with discord? Does the world tip its scales in feeding one wolf more than the other? Do we choose to see thorns or roses? Is agreeing to disagree now passe’?”
Gardening teaches me so much about living life. Besides providing quiet time to regenerate, and avoid constant interruptions of marketing ploys or messages that can wait, gardening offers opportunities to look more deeply into life.
Stepping into the tomato patch today, I notice some are ripened red, some still green, some are somewhere along the way. Brighter, faster, bigger, smaller, slower — each is on its own natural path. Some are still hanging on, some have fallen, others have reached their potential, or are late bloomers. Each embodies the same components — vine, skin, flesh, seeds, juice — but they are not exactly the same. I do not understand why current culture insists humans must have the same thoughts, feelings, sensitivities, and opinions, that to be one we cannot be unalike.
We are a universe of red, white, brown, tan, black, tall, short, thin, plump beings, with indigenous dialects and languages, who think diverse thoughts, eat different foods, live in disparate climates, etc., etc., etc. Yet the Thought Police want to neutralize our inherent differences, insisting we cannot think independently, that our beliefs, words and opinions must all conform. Consider this:
An unripened tomato is not the same as a ripened one, not in color, size, taste or maturity. Similarly, a beefsteak tomato is not a cocktail tomato or a plum tomato or cherry tomato or tomato of any other name. I cannot force it to be what it is not. Some are blemished, some appear perfect on the surface, some may be rotten inside but I accept and work with each as is.
Instead of denigrating others for being who they are, or demanding an unrealistic homegeneity, a more equitable approach is through mutual respect — something greatly overshadowed anymore by stratospheric sensitivities. Now I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) but I honor individuality. Can culture shift its caliginous restraints on our genuine differences?
Over 15,000 varieties of tomatoes exist throughout our world in every shade of red, burgundy, pink, purple, orange, yellow, green, almost black, even streaked and striped. Numerous flavors range from tasty sweet to tart or well-balanced. I think it’s safe to say some prefer one type over another. There is nothing wrong with that. Each has its own comfort zone for thriving, and some are more versatile than others. Distinct qualities are refreshing. As with the human race. I don’t want to have just cherry tomatoes. Do you?
Starring the close of each year and darkest, darkest night, the Poinsettia’s striking winter appearance hails worldwide wishes of generosity and good cheer.
A Plant of Many Miracles…
Rooted around miracles and the power of love, Mexican legend paints a heartwarming story around the Poinsettia. While details vary, it’s essentially about a meager child having nothing to offer the baby Jesus except some roadside weeds. Once placed on the Christmas Eve altar, however, they miraculously transformed into brilliant redand green flowers. Can you imagine witnessing the unfolding of such beauty, like the ugly duckling turned swan, or springtime buds bursting into bloom? You know, it’s how your heart feels when overflowing with love. How you feel when giving (or receiving) from the heart.
Exemplifying the giving season, Poinsettias achieved stardom once sold under the botanical name Euphorbia Pulcherrima. Nearly 70 million plants now sell from Thanksgiving to Christmas, generating $250 million in sales.
Today, more than 100 varieties of Poinsettias range from burgundy to red, salmon to apricot, yellow to cream and white, and solid to marbled, not to mention the dyed blue and purple ones or those speckled with glitter.
The United States commemorates December 12th, the date of Poinsett’s death, as National Poinsettia Day.
As much as I love gardening, and can rarely bear discarding any broken plant stems (several cuttings are rooting on my windowsill now), I admit I never gave Poinsettia’s their proper care. Sure, I didn’t toss them after the holidays when their bracts (often called flowers) fell, and a few hung around awhile as green house plants, but I didn’t keep them in total darkness so they would turn red for the holidays next year — a process Certified Nursery Consultant, Rick LaVasseur calls photoperiodism. A process I call a miracle if I remember to do it.
Also known as the Christmas Eve Flower or Flowers of the Holy Night, some Christians symbolize the plant’s shape as the Star of Bethlehem which guided the Wise Men to Jesus, and the red color as the blood of Christ.
Reading a snippet about feeling awkward around kids reaffirmed there is nothing wrong with those who feel uncomfortable around children. Perhaps you have no experience with kids. Does your gut groan around pre-adolescents…looking for what to say? Have you purposely chosen to not father children but instead protectively care for plants, pets, or a project benefiting the planet?
Rather than judge or condemn, I respect those who live authentically. One size does not fit all. We are not meant to be experts at everything; some are better at some things than others, and sustaining that diversity honors all life. I respect individuality but believe all of us need nurturing in whatever form it may be as evidenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s sentiments:
My joy is in a serene garden and when helping others. Over three decades, I have created three-season flowering gardens, beautiful landscaping for the natural environment, and deliciously fresh organic vegetables and herbs. It’s hard to say who was more nurtured in these activities — the plants or me — but, assuredly, the benefits were far-reaching.
Coming into the house, after what appears to be the last unseasonably warm October day, I glimpsed again at the magnificent colors punctuating the grey cloudy sky — burgundy flowering plums, orange maples, yellow-green birches, tanned leather oaks, fiery red sassafras — their leaves twirling in the wind then freckling the autumn ground.
These guys (or gals) don’t look alike but they respectfully share from the same feeder, while happily chirping away. People could learn a lot from them.
I learned a lot from Jamaicans when visiting their homeland. Most Americans warned me ahead of time to “not go off the resort premises,” but strolling down the beach while mesmerized by the turquoise sea drew my curiosity beyond the boundary line. Haphazard tin-roofed shacks from whatever washed ashore leaned every which way — a yin-yang contrast to the well-manicured all-inclusive that was my home for 7 days.
The Jamaican Patois (pronounced Patwa) beckoned me into the makeshift beach mall. My ear took some getting used to their creole language but I appreciated the creative twist on english. In and out, I scanned the line of booths sand to ceiling but most of the wares were tchotchkes made in China that I could purchase in my hometown dollar store. Still, each proprietor smiled widely while proclaiming, “Tank yuh. Tank you fi looking. Tank you fi di respect.”
Most Jamaicans live in poverty. Tourism, music or selling drugs sadly seem to be the major opportunities to increase their standard of living. I’ve had panhandlers in other countries follow me into the water ruining an afternoon swim, or camp out just beyond the garden patio, calling for me to buy their goods. (One couple from Manhattan quit their Grenada vacation early, stating, “The panhandling isn’t this bad at home. We came here to relax…”) But, Jamaica was different. The people spoke to my heart and I quickly understood a universal desire for respect.
“I love your food. The Jamaican Jerk is delicious…nothing like back home,” I shared with the merchants. “I’ve been listening to a lot of your music on MTV in my room. I never knew there are so many types of Reggae. Do you have Tanya Stephensor Beris Hammond? I’d love to take some CDs home,” I explained to the last few shopkeepers. (Yes, I’m of the generation that still listens to an armoire full of CDs. Just another segment of my staving off technology.)
Walking back to the resort, a young Jamaican boy ran down the hill toward me, waving his arms. “Yuh di lady looking fi music?” he asked, showing me a handful of CDs.
“Well, yes I am. What do you have there?” The jewel cases sported homemade labels depicting the very artists I inquired about. We exchanged smiles as I paid him then crossed the boundary line to the resort.
That night, I watched a Jamaican grandmother teach her granddaughter the art of basket weaving while a Rastafari man let me listen through his headphones to other Jamaican musicians I might like. The next day, the little boy made me nearly a dozen more CDs which I carefully wrapped in the intricately hand-woven two-toned basket for my travels home.
For me, the best souvenir is a meaningful piece of culture. The best vacation is connecting with natives of the homeland. I travel to experience diversity. Maybe that’s what the cardinals and chickadees do too.
It’s all a matter of respect.
Some less respectful tidbits about Jamaica…
Don’t refer to a Rastafari as a “rastafarian” as they connect “ians” and “isms” to oppression. Likewise, referring to their philosophy as a “religion” or “ism” is against their beliefs.
Dudus (Christopher Michael) Coke led the violent Shower Posse drug gang that exported marijuana and cocaine to the United States. In 1992 he took over his deceased father’s position as leader of the Tivoli Gardens community in West Kingston. Providing programs to help the poor community garnered him so much local support that Jamaican police could not enter this neighborhood without community consent.