Lessons on Stability

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.

She adds:

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.

 

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10 thoughts on “Lessons on Stability

  1. Was thinking about the changes that comes in an individual after marriage since morning and saw your article…. Loved that stability part and growth of the tree…had once written about tree as parents-fruits as kids…its somewhere there in my evernote I guess and this reminded me of it!!…beautiful post …loved it totally!

    1. Mridhula, when I had first written this post (many years ago), it received a lot of criticism. Very few people subscribed to the idea of preserving the integrity of institutions because they believed it could compromise the self seriously. While I understand that one must always prioritize one’s internal happiness, I also believe that traditional systems teach us resilience. They teach us the art of finding internal happiness in the worst of circumstances. True freedom of mind lies in this ability. And so, we in the modern world are very poor at such resilience. Sigh!

      1. In my understanding ‘self’ has never survived alone.. It cannot survive alone…. We all need each other and we do change and accept sometimes unawaringly, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes desiringly..Thanks for sharing it again now Vidya ..you have given me more to think on-self effacement and self development exactly what I was pondering since morning!!

      2. Mridula, in an era where the ‘self’ is blinding man to the fact that self is inseparable from the ‘whole’, people do find it difficult to subscribe to many perspectives put forth in tradition. What people fail to realize is that though things change on an external plane as time passes by and technology evolves, life remains the same at the core. And so, the core principles that govern life remain the same.

  2. This reminds me of “amaranmar marangalayi theerunnu” from Poonthanam’s Njanappana. Good post Vidya, these days who looks at the trees who never fail to observe us as we walk pass them…

    1. Sunith, it is no wonder that trees have always been worshiped in our culture. In Kerala, sacred groves (kaavu) are demarcated by ancient trees that stand rooted to the wilderness that sustains them. Trees are rooted into the phenomenon of spirituality. Like someone once called them- ‘standing people’ who teach us spirituality. Trees help us become aware of our connections with something larger than ourselves.
      To quote Herman Hesse:
      ‘For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.’

      http://www.keepbanderabeautiful.org/hesse-hermann-txt.html

      1. Vidya, This calls for a separate discussion and a post. Thank you for the share on Hesse hermann’s perceptions on life giving trees. Just as we care for humans and pets, we should be taking time to touch and talk to them and of course worship them..

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