Stability thrives on foundation.
And stability, by itself, provides us with an emotional component that is hard to ignore.
The sight of an old tree often draws me to it.
There is something that this perception evokes in me, for it speaks of stability resting on a strong foundation. And this stability soothes and comforts.
The tree speaks of growth– a phenomenon that revolves around change. In the journey from seed to tree, change has been a vital element. Every day, there is change from within. But with every change, and with every phase of growth, it only attains a higher order of stability.
The trunk thickens, reaches greater heights…
The branches spread out, bearing leaves, flowers and fruits…
And yet, the tree stands sturdy, rooted to the ground.
In these roots, this massive structure finds its stability, for that is its foundation. At no phase of growth, does the tree choose to detach from its roots- from its foundation.
It used to be likewise, with traditional institutions- home, family, marriage, school. These were institutions that stood rooted to some fundamental concepts that governed the human spirit. They rested on pillars of human emotions, interactions and interdependence. And thus, from a holistic perspective, they stood stable. By their mere stability, they provided us with an emotional comfort that is palpably absent in modern institutions. They imposed challenges and demanded change at an individual level, but at the level of the institution, they stood stable and rooted.
There were occasions when it would have been easier to break free from these institutions, but one held onto them, perhaps consciously unaware of what they offered on an emotional plane. And yet, there was this strange emotional comfort one felt in just being rooted and committed to these institutions, and to bring about change from within the self- change that took us to higher levels of stability and transformed us.
A friend of mine says:
Scenes of turbulence and instability dominated my early years of marriage, and separation might have been an option. But separation never once occurred to me, simply because that was never an option in the culture that I grew up with. Separation was almost unheard of, in the times that I grew up. And thus, as years added on to my marriage, I went through the ups and downs of life with my partner, and a character-sketch of my partner, that had only begun to take shape in the initial years of my marriage, took a more definite form. I developed a greater understanding of the human core beneath the multitude of the external facets of his behaviour. Had separation been an option, I would never have given myself a chance for such understanding.
I often think of my mother- of all those times when her eyes would brim with tears. Today, I realize that those tears were often tears of an unheard voice, an unheard perspective. And yet, separation was never an option. Instead, she just learnt to bring in change from within, and to find peace within herself. And thus, home and family stood unshaken, for they were not compromised for the self. In that stability that was family, with all the instabilities within, there was something of value- something that taught us children silent lessons of life, of human emotions, of human interactions, and of empathy.
Today, how many old trees would we find around us to teach us such lessons of life? In the ornamental gardens that are the proud possessions of every house, I struggle to get beneath the extravagance of the orchids, flowers and fancy plants. These gardens are in eternal bloom, oblivious to nature’s moods. But they fail to age and attain character; they fail to mould to the play of seasons.
When they complete their life span of ‘eternal bloom’, they wither away, leaving no imprints of their lives for the generations ahead.
Similar is the case with society today. For a good many of us, life is an eternal celebration. Every day is a celebration- an apparent state of bloom. We fail to grow emotionally; we fail to age emotionally. When we are confronted with emotional challenges of a more complex nature, we wither away.
For, on the one hand, we have detached ourselves from our roots, and on the other hand, we have failed to grow from within.
The old tree smiles at me from the grove, for it has communicated to me what it stands for.