“Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root. Even when we improve we never progress. For progress, the metaphor from the road, implies a man leaving his home behind him: but improvement means a man exalting the towers or extending the gardens of his home.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature …
Trees offer us so much–shade from the sun on a hot day, oxygen necessary to sustain life, even parallels with which we can observe and draw life lessons from, which Gilbert does here by stating that the real development of a tree can be witnessed in its roots. The roots are the source of nourishment–drawing up the necessary nutrients and water needed to live. They are the source of strength and stability–providing a solid foundation in the Earth in which the tree can grow and develop to its full capacity. And like a tree, we must have strong roots in which we can build upon and grow from, roots that can nourish and sustain us through all that we experience in life. For if we were to reject those things of our past–our education, our experiences, our friendships, our relationships, and even many of our possessions–then we are casting them off, leaving ourselves without nourishment and strength for when we experience difficulties in life, and without a solid foundation that can offer us stability and balance in our lives.
Several years back, I had bought my first lawn mower at a garage sale. That mower is still with me in the form of an important lesson that I learned–I bought it because it was the cheapest I could find, and I was short on money. Unfortunately, it was a horrible buy, and I almost spent more time fixing it than I did using it. I had to completely take apart the carburetor to clean out moisture, the back wheels fell off it after a couple months, I had to sharpen the blades because they could barely cut cheese, and on and on. Instead of getting a great deal on a used mower, I ended up having to buy a new one the next year and ended up with both a new mower… and a broken one that no one wanted to buy or take.
As with much of life, “we get what we pay for.” If we want our lives to be rich experiences, then we have to be willing to seek improvement in them–and that means building upon the past and extending our skills, abilities, relationships, things, and understanding of life. For if we choose to completely forget the past, then we also choose to forget what we learned from it, and the ways in which we grew and changed as a person. This also means we forget what we gave to other and put forth into the world, and the kinds of good, healthy, uplifting, and positive things we created and gifted.
We need strong and healthy roots to keep us steady and balanced in life, roots that will allow us to bend, but not break, in the winds of the storms that will pass through our lives. Of course, these winds will still add difficulties and hardships into our lives, but they might also allow us to develop into stronger individuals over time if we allow them. And although we might not be comfortable with our current circumstances–our relationships, our spirituality, our education, our possessions, or the ways in which we treat others–we do not have to reject them or toss them aside, usually, all that is necessary is a slight adjustment. If we are faced with adversity, or we encounter people, things, and beliefs that do not align with ours, we can use those things that we wish to change as the base for a new direction in our lives–as new roots from which we can draw life to grow taller and stronger and improve ourselves.
Find importance in a few things that you are uncomfortable with in life.
Questions to consider:
Why do we so often feel that our best strategy is to reject those things that we are not comfortable with?
How should we distinguish between the things that we should cast away and the things that we should use to draw life from?
What kinds of experiences and possessions in your life make up the roots that hold you steady and give you life?
For further thought:
“What we call wisdom is the result, not the residuum, of all the wisdom of past ages. Our best institutions are like young trees growing upon the roots of the old trunks that have crumbled away.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher, Life Thoughts