Learning From Trees #3: Bonsais

bonsai

Throughout our day, we have many interactions with people.  Some of them may be positive, while others may not be so positive.  After a negative encounter we may wonder, Why does this person behave in such a way?  How could this person be so heartless (inconsiderate, rude, oblivious, cold, cruel et cetera)?

Well, this is an excellent question, and there is probably a reason for their undesirable behavior.  It is also not only possible, but quite likely that they have asked themselves the same question, and have tried unsuccessfully to change.  Why is it so hard to do what we know is right?  Is it just human nature?

What people become under one set of circumstances does not tell us very much about what they might have become under another.  Japanese gardeners, over many centuries, have learned to do things to trees, to clip their roots or trim their branches, to limit their supply of water, air, or sun, so that they live, and for a long time, but only in tiny, shrunken, twisted shapes.  Such trees may please us, or they may not. But what could they tell us about the nature of trees?  If a tree can be deformed and shrunk, is this, then, its nature?  The nature of these trees, given enough of the sun, air, water, soil, and food they need, is to grow like trees, tall and straight.

People can be more easily deformed, and worse deformed, even than trees—and more than trees, they feel it, it hurts.  But this cannot and does not say anything about their nature.  Only to the degree that people have what they need, that they are healthy and unafraid, that their lives are varied, interesting, meaningful, productive, joyous, can we begin to judge, or even guess, their nature.  Few people, adults or children, now live such lives.  Perhaps few ever did.  There is no way to find out how much good or kindness there may be in human nature, except to build or try to build a society on the assumption that people are or would like to be good and kind, a society in which to be good and kind is at least not a handicap.  Until we are able to do this, it would be more wise and fair, and even prudent, to give human beings the benefit of the doubt.” –John Holt

Perhaps we ought to take Mr Holt’s advice, and show a little grace not only to others, but to ourselves.

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