Saturday, December 01, 2012

ARTICLE - Flowers Fall


"Flowers fall amid our longing
and weeds spring up amid our antipathy."
We all require some degree of choice in what we believe, express and do. What we like and dislike, what we do and don't want to happen, is an ever present debate. Our consumerist culture tries to meet most of our desires, irrespective of whether we want ambrosia or pig swill, it makes few judgements about value. The fulfilment of our longings and eradication of our antipathies is our raison d'etre, and the motive for our shopping.

We've chosen to distinguish plants as either 'flowers' or 'weeds', the cultured and the uncultured, those we cultivate and those we eradicate. What was naturally chaotic becomes ordered, enhanced and modified to increase it's yield, size or colour. We've taken control of plant evolution so we only get what we prefer – which isn't weeds. Dogen implies that these distinctions, prejudiced by our feelings, produce unrealistic expectations.

Similarly we at windhorse:evolution have many things we'd like to cultivate and 'flower', such as; ethical trading; sales to our customers; good business systems and organisation; sufficient money to ensure the future of the business; to support a diverse range of Buddhist lifestyles.  We daily endeavour to prepare and water the soil, set up the best possible conditions for growth, so that these desires will hopefully flourish. There are also many things that we dislike, want to eradicate and to 'weed' out, such as; inadequate communication between departments; picking mistakes; product breakages; system malfunctions; delivery cock-ups that disappoint and annoy our customers. Despite the progressive intent of any improvements we implement, a degree of entropy inherent in the functioning of any business, affects how much we slip towards order or chaos. Those damned weeds still keep springing up in spite of repeated applications of systemic weedkiller. Without becoming complacent, we have to live with the occasional provocation of thistles erupting across our neatly manicured lawns.

We know what we'd prefer to happen, and wouldn't life be so much easier if reality fully followed our bidding? - but it doesn't. In my work in Customer Services, 'flowers fall' and 'weeds spring up' minute by minute. Even in the best organised businesses this happens, which isn't to counsel apathy, or discourage organisational improvements – for minimising chaos is essential for the continued health of any business. However,unrealistic expectations that all external elements of chaos can be brought to order, will only compound our levels of mental stress and anxiety, which in turn has a deleterious effect on the ease and effectiveness of our work. So, how we respond when 'weeds spring up' and triumph over order, is really important. Dogen encourages us - to be realistic about what can or cannot be controlled - to be equanimous when carefully prepared plans go awry, or even right – to understand reality is indifferent to our desire for stability and permanence – which in the light of our mortality should really be no surprise at all.

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