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About that bouquet of flowers
Recently, I posted on social media, requesting of people that they please stop “picking” flowers. “Picking” is a euphemism that hides the fact that what we're doing is separating them from their life-giving source. Flowers, like all of nature are living manifestations of the Divine and deserve to have their lives honored on their own terms, not as decorative objects in our homes..
I was blessed to get one response which was enough to carry on the conversations. The innocuous enough post informed me that the individual grows flowers for the garden as well as the house.
Upon reading these words, I immediately got a strange feeling in my gut and wrote back: "I've been wrestling with this for a while now, to understand myself not as the "actor upon" the living earth but as the "actor with." In that sense, when there are tulips in my garden, I see that it is the earth that has grown them. It is the flowers that have grown themselves. I've participated only in that I've put the bulbs into the ground and perhaps facilitated access to water. I'm striving for a meaningful humility by letting myself sense the flowers' sovereignty. Part of that respect is to refrain from breaking off their blossoms. That has led to my actually not in any way enjoying seeing broken living flower parts. I know with certainty they don't belong to me and I have no rights to their lives."
My conversation partner was kind enough in their response, calling mine an interesting perspective and reminding me that we eat plants and that life feeds on itself and is in a perpetual cycle of life and death. They also volunteered their view that flowers are nature’s way of expressing joy. They continued by suggesting that it makes no difference to flowers if we cut off their blooms.
I very much agreed with them that the reality of life as manifest in time and space is that it consumes itself in order to perpetuate itself, that life recreates itself from itself. It's a system as terrifying as it is ingenious.
However, to think of flowers as nature's expression of joy seemed truly anthropocentric, a perspective shaped purely by viewing the subject through the human lens. To me, flowers are flowers are flowers. And we, as humans, have a particular response to them. This response lives within us and is about us.
I answered: "I felt distressed by your saying that it makes no difference to the tulips if you cut their blossoms. How on earth do we know these things with such certainty? There is a considerable amount of respected research that points to that plants feel pain. We used to think that animals don't feel pain, either. This is where I feel compelled to search myself. Yes, I feel I have the right to eat the carrot to sustain my life and the carrot has the right to eat the microbes to sustain their life. But isn't that very different from taking life for purposes of decorating our homes? We can enjoy the flowers' decoration without having to separate them from their source of life by cutting them. I think in that sense, the human consciousness is still in a state of barbarism. Barbarism from its root, "to speak like a foreigner." We are foreigners to plants' lives."
I see this as being about more than a tulip blossom. Cutting blossoms off tulips speaks to how we conduct ourselves as a species in relationship with nature. The rest of nature can't check us (as evinced by climate change and mass extinctions). That’s why we have to cultivate the humility to check ourselves. That's such a journey.
My conversation partner suggested, perhaps in jest, that I put the question to the tulips in my garden directly.
I answered back that, yes, in fact I had. I wrote: "I’ve asked the flowers how they feel. I can tell you unequivocally, they do not want to be cut."
My friend ignored this bold assertion. But their final comment was generous. They, too, believe that Western culture needs to alter its relationship to nature. And they support me in doing what is right for me. In essence they told me, You do you.
I appreciate that. I appreciate the idea to agree to disagree, too. My only concern with that is that while I’m doing me and you’re doing you, more species go extinct, more CO2 enters the atmosphere, more plastic floats out into the ocean and all the rest.
Another way to say “You do you” is “Live and let live.” I think that’s the better motto for us to adopt. Let us live and let us let all the other species and the rest of the planet live, too.
Here is a link to a piece of research about plants possessing the ability to feel pain.
Henry India Holden
I write about the divineness of life in its many forms. Writer, artist, spiritual director, life coach, tarotist. Nonbinary.