He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Friday, February 28, 2014

Living on the Mountain: Rocks from the Garden

As I've mentioned before, the first dollar I earned was given to me by my grandfather for helping him gather rocks from his garden.  Removing rocks from the garden was an endless task.  During each planting season there were more rocks to be removed; this is the natural state of affairs when living in the mountains. 

It's not that the rocks were growing up from the ground or falling from the sky.  The rocks were always there, and the process of tilling the ground so that it could bear good fruit was revealing the rocks to us which were already there.  We just hadn't worked the land enough to see those particular rocks until that moment.  It was always worth it to remove the rocks when we found them to make room for more plants in the garden to grow in the rich soil.  Over the years, the garden became more and more bountiful in its yields as the gardeners grew in experience and wisdom, and also as they removed more rocks.  The vegetables and fruits grown in the garden just got better and better in quality and quantity as time went on.

I tend to think that our lives are much like that garden in the mountains.  I often wondered why the fruits of my life seemed to be meager when I was younger.  I didn't understand why the garden of my life was in such sad shape.  I have realized since then that I just wasn't treating the garden of my life very well.  I had a lot of rocks (and maybe some boulders) just resting there on top of the rich soil; plenty of rocks were underneath it too.  I was not putting in the necessary work each day to take care of the garden of my life.  I rarely tilled the ground.  I watered it sporadically.  I let the weeds grow at will.

The garden of my life is providing much better yields now.  I got to this point by pulling out the first rock: my attachment to pleasing food.  Removing the first rock enabled me to get under the second rock: my unhealthy attachment to leisure activities.  Removing these rocks has enabled me to remove many more, and it has now cleared up my garden so that I can work on the biggest boulder: my pride.  I am still pushing it out of the garden, and I may have to keep pushing it for many years.

Another benefit of removing those rocks is that I have room to plant more good habits in the rich soil they had been covering.  My good habits (i.e. healthy eating, regular exercise, balanced sleep, hard work) have been producing much better yields in my life.  I am more generous; I am more patient; I am more loving.  The fruit of virtue is its own reward, and I have been enjoying the first tastes of it.  God willing, I will continue to remove the rocks in the garden of my life and plant more good habits until virtue flowers at all times.

My grandfather had a magnificent garden when he died, but the most magnificent part of his life was the fruit of that life.  His incredible virtuous conduct towards his fellow human beings was a testament to what a good gardener he was when it came to tending the soil of his soul.  May we all tend to the soil of our souls as carefully as he did, removing all the rocks we find and planting good habits in their place until our lives shine forth as an example of what a powerful light our lives can be in a world of moral twilight.

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