When Something Beautiful Dies
When we let something beautiful die the world is less beautiful place.
We tend to a prize rose bush and we water it every day and we prune it when it needs pruning. We feed it and we tend to it and we enjoy its perfect fragrant blooms. Every day we look at it and take pride in it and we derive pleasure from its beauty. We look at that rose bush every day and we don’t notice that some of its leaves, the ones hidden inside away from the sun have started to wither. We don’t notice the leaves which are hiding from the sun have died. We only see the roses and the bright healthy leaves facing the sun.
Year after year we tend to that prize rose bush and year after year a few more leaves inside it are starting to brown and wither – and die. One morning, before a rain, when the rose bush braces itself for an approaching storm, we notice something doesn’t look quite right with it, but we don’t like to think that something is terribly wrong with the rose bush that we have cherished and tended and cared for all those years is sick and dying. We believe that a little more plant food and a little more water is all it needs. So we feed it and water it a little more often. It just needs a little more pruning, we think and we prune it a little more. And we notice, as we’re trimming it back, that so many of the leaves inside it are dying – or dead.
A little more care will help, we think. So we tend to it more and do all the things we think will make it healthy again, but the leaves keep withering and the leaves keep dying and we keep trying to ignore what we see. We get a different brand of plant food and we think perhaps we are watering it too much. So we alter the care we give it, but the leaves keep dying. We notice one day that even those leaves which are warmed by and bask in the sun every day are withering and starting to die.
And then it happens. One morning we wake up and we notice even the blooms are withering and the bush itself is deformed. It isn’t as beautiful anymore; it has become bent and stooped, and the blossoms smaller and fading – and some of the rose petals have fallen off and swirl on the ground in the hot summer wind.
The beautiful rose bush we loved isn’t beautiful anymore. Despite the time we gave it, the food we fed it, the water we gave it to drink, it is dying and its beauty gone. We start tending it less and less and soon we get up every morning and go about our day and barely even give that rose bush a thought. It’s just there, it is dying, and we just accept that no matter what we do, the rose bush is doomed. We walk by it and don’t see it and we don’t water it, we don’t tend it, we don’t feed it, and despite all of that, the rose bush survives – but it is crooked and bent and not at all the beautiful rose bush we once enjoyed so much. It is is just another aging and ignored rose bush like so many in the neighborhood.
We go about our lives and the rose bush becomes less and less important – we barely even think of it anymore let alone care for it or tend it. But somehow, despite the lack of attention, the rose bush struggles on, it still flowers but the flowers are dull and almost lifeless. Month after month the rose bush somehow survives – despite our neglect. Soon we come to accept it as it is. We’re not happy with it – we barely notice it is still there.
We don’t want to uproot it and remove it from our lives because we still remember the hours of pleasure it gave us, the hope we found in it’s lovely flowers. We recall the many hours we spent tending to it and caring for it; we remember the many hours of enjoyment it gave to us. So we allow it to live despite the brown leaves, stooped stems and drooping blossoms. Though it is what it has become, we still don’t want to kill it and throw it in the trash. So the rose bush struggles on, miserable, brown and bent. We hardly give it any care at all. When we walk by it we scarcely give it a thought; we notice it only in passing.
Then one day an angry storm blows in and damages trees and downs power lines and disrupts our daily routine. The storm dark and ominous gives us pause for a long moment and then the moment is gone and the sun returns. In the sun, we assess the damage: some broken branches, lawn furniture overturned, but no major damage; nothing that can’t be fixed in a few minutes.
After we’ve cleaned up from the storm we happen to notice that the rose bush, the once beautiful symbol of our love and care, has been stripped even of its last struggling, withered blooms. It has become a wraith – a shadow of itself.
Still we can’t bring ourselves to dig it out and discard its pathetic remains. We have too much work, too much emotion, too many days and weeks and months and years into it to summarily uproot it and toss it away like so much trash. We hope that it comes back even if it only comes back as a withered, bent, caricature of itself.
The rose bush does come back and it does come back uncomely and and straggly, struggling to produce even the small, dull flowers to which we had allowed ourselves to become accustomed. We accept those pitiable blooms because that’s the best that the rose bush can give us. Sometimes we do find ourselves longing for the beautiful flowers the plant once produced but even in our most energetic imaginings we just can’t remember how they used to look. We can’t recall how good we used to feel when we smelled the fragrant blossoms on a warm summer day.
Several times we even vow recommit ourselves to its care but we just can’t seem to maintain the enthusiasm we once had. But even the initial enthusiasm we bring to these brief renaissances is lacking; it is not genuine. It is not the same.
Because we cannot completely separate ourselves from the world we live in, we like to think there are easy and simple solutions for everything. We like to think if we can’t fix something we once cared for and loved, quickly and easily, we can quickly and easily replace it. We live in an instant world where instant food, instant sleep, instant pleasure, even instant love abounds. We never stop to think that the substance of our lives is becoming as instant and shallow as the world all around us.
But we just can’t seem to fix that rose bush, and we just can’t seem to summon up the courage to replace it. The time and the effort and the love we invested in that rose bush just won’t allow us to pluck it from the ground, toss it away, and plant a new, vibrant rose bush in it’s place. We just can’t seem to accept a simple and quick fix for the rose bush to which we had given so much of ourselves.
The rose bush struggles on, day after day, month after month, in spite of our neglect and carelessness. It somehow survives in spite of us. We don’t pay much attention to it anymore, but yet we can’t tear it out of the ground and throw it away.
We have forgotten that when the rose bush was beautiful we gave it more than water. We have forgotten how beautiful it was when we gave it more than food. We have forgotten what it was like when we did more than prune it and tend to it. We have forgotten how we loved it and how we enjoyed the pleasures its magnificent blossoms gave us.
We gave it more than the things it needed – we freely gave it our love and time.
We once gave that rose bush our love and our time freely because we wanted to. We didn’t tend to it or feed it or prune it because we expected anything in return. We loved enjoyed the care and attention we freely gave to it, and we never felt the attention we gave as a chore or an obligation.
When we gave that rose bush our love and our time freely, it flourished and gave us back much more than it received from us. We freely gave of our ourselves without expecting anything in return. But what we received in return was far greater than anything we could have ever dreamed.
When we let something beautiful die, the world is a less beautiful place.