Take a look at the photo of this article! It is not randomly chosen. I am an avid skyscape photographer and I have a generous number of photos that wait for the right text to be paired with. For some time I started to generate fully original material, images and texts alike. No need to bother for copyright stuff. So, as you watch the photo, you can see two layers of clouds: a high-altitude altocumulus that respects a pattern of repetitive rows, and below a low-altitude cumulus that aims to and is finally able to ruin the “perfect” picture. The cumulus is fast moving and opportunistic, just like any “low-level” thing that corrupts and disrupts the well-established order. ‘Low-level’, ‘fast-moving’ and ‘imperfect or lacking-patterns’ are all keywords. And the image tells a story in a symbolic manner.
In a cemetery, far away in my home country, I have someone important for me. Buried. Details don’t matter. What matters is that a part of my family comes daily to his grave so as to bring flowers. Some weeks ago however – Surprise! – the flowers were stolen. Yes, the flowers that were put in the morning on the grave were stolen when the family unexpectedly came back to the cemetery in the afternoon. This came as a shock. My relatives couldn’t believe their eyes, but they eventually brought back new fresh flowers the following day. And – Surprise! – the new flowers got stolen as well. Double-shock, obviously. Now my family doesn’t know what to do, so they prefer to bring less-costly flowers, not-so-good-looking flowers. And yes, those last flowers didn’t get stolen. For now, things seem to be under control. For now…
I’d like to ask you to stop a little and allow yourself to feel this story… Allow yourself to feel the anger and the sadness and the desperation of someone who cannot honor the memory of a deceased loved one… Allow yourself to feel the ire coming from the injustice of the situation, the abuse that someone is inflicting on my family while denying their right and their freedom to bring the flowers they deem to be adequate for the grave – a symbol of their love after all. Any ‘civilized’ person should feel anger or sadness or both. Someone who is more sensitive could also feel something in their body, a physical reaction to what I just wrote, perhaps a shiver on their back. ‘Civilized’ is another keyword.
Actually, what happened is this: people who are poor or don’t want to work, happen to steal good-looking flowers, so as to sell them once again on the street and get some money. This often happens in front of the gate of the cemetery or in the local market. This is Romania, my country. However, there are several regions in Romania; some regions are more ‘civilized’, such as Transylvania. Others are not. Even if I lived more than half of my life in Transylvania, I come from a different region. And I still remember my grandparents who used to break the stem of the flowers brought to the cemetery, so that nobody can steal them and resell them. A broken stem destroys the flower and its ability to be sold again, yet it keeps its value as a symbol for the deceased one. It’s a good strategy if one wants to keep beautiful flowers on the grave of a loved one. The problem is that, in Transylvania, a richer region, it was unthinkable to steal flowers from the cemetery. Until lately. The civilization of Transylvania did not have a solution for an absurd problem. Until that problem appeared.
Just as the ‘low-level’ ‘fast-moving’ ‘opportunistic’ cloud destroys the harmony of the ‘perfect’ sky, the thieves probably originating from outside Transylvania have come to overcome the ‘civilized’ land. And you know what? They will succeed! When dealing with barbarians, you need to become creative. But often, this is not enough. You might be already doomed.
Food for thought! This is a quote from Esther Harding, an author that might tell you something interesting:
“In order to gain a new vantage point from which a fresh world philosophy may, perhaps, be built up, a renewed contact with the deeper levels of human nature is needed, so that a really vital relation may be established with the laws or principles which activate humanity. Only through such a renewing experience can we hope to be able to bridge the chasm which has opened up before our Western civilization. In the past when a breakdown of morality and economics – of world philosophy – confronted a civilization, it seemed that nothing could be done except to reinforce the ideals on which the culture was built, whether these were materialistic, or spiritual. But in most cases recovery was impossible, the ideals had carried the civilization as far as they could, further expansion along those lines was impossible, and the culture crumbled. Barbarians surged in. The dark ages supervened until, through the succeeding centuries, a new culture was evolved, not, however, from the remnants of the old, but arising spontaneously from the new soil, from the inferior people who invaded and destroyed their civilized and cultured predecessors.”
What does the text say?! Well, it speaks about the fact that there were several civilizations throughout history and there were also barbarian invasions, when apparently, the reset button was hit. There is Antiquity, there is Renaissance, there is the Modern Era, but there are also Migrations or the Middle Ages. There is Light but there is also Darkness. A given civilization will have this reflex to overcompensate (in the text the word “reinforced” is used), but to no avail. The Roman Empire certainly tried to reinforce its ideals when faced the barbarians. The Catholic Church surely tried to reinforce its own ideals when dealing with various reformers… or heretics. The present Western European civilization, if (when) it is sufficiently woken up, will try to do something about its own values and the migrants that have different values (and religions, and traditions, and expectations). But results vary. And according to the text, the odds are in favor of the ‘barbarians’, provided they are much more aligned with their inner instincts, with their ‘human nature’. If a civilization becomes too abstract, too formal, if the link with the inner-mind is severed, that civilization becomes weak and is erased. Unfortunately, the benefits of that civilization are also, more often than not, lost.
Concretely, the thieves of graveyard flowers are more connected with their instincts – the instinct of survival – than the ones who sacrifice their money so as to buy flowers that have a symbolical role (my family). Using the mind of the “low-level” individual, if a guy is dead, he doesn’t need flowers. I mean, he’s dead, he doesn’t care. So there is a practical use for those flowers, a practicality that is linked to the survival of the fittest (or the most opportunistic). Therefore the flowers are taken without remorse because they are seen as ‘resources’. Life (or natural selection) will side with the one who wants to live and not with the one who ‘wastes a resource’, even if that ‘waste’ has a symbolic reason. The low-level needs (basic food-shelter needs) are stronger than the high-level needs (esthetic or spiritual needs). The inner-mind will favor the low-level. Always. It ensures the survival of the species.
Beyond the bitterness of this situation, I feel, while regarding the entire story, that there is a lesson to be learned. It is also a pattern that can be seen at work right now in the world. We need to reconnect with the inner-mind so as to have at least one chance of not being wiped out of this world and from history. This sounds abstract, I mean, reconnect with oneself?! What’s that? I think that it has something to do with our common-sense and with recognizing that we cannot compete with our built-in nature and try to rewrite our own spiritual (and physical) code. People are competitive and opportunistic. We need to accept that and perhaps find ways to channel this competitiveness into something creative or at least benign. Instead of stealing flowers from our graveyards, we can do something better with our desire to live. And instead of promoting people based on their gender or the color of their skin of their political affiliation (abstract and absurd criteria), we could use the same thief-competitiveness so as to boost competence, creativity and practically solve problems (so as to give a contemporary example). Suppressing or rewriting our instincts won’t work, reinforcement of the same artificial ideas won’t work. The ‘human nature’ will always prevail. It cannot be tamed. It cannot be defeated. But it can be upgraded while respecting its original core.