On Indirectness

Last summer, I tried to grow a tomato plant for the first time.  I got a little starter plant and proceeded to buy soil, a large container, gardening equipment, nutrients and supports for the plant.  I read about growing tomatoes.  And then I planted it.  And then I watered it and like any new parent, tracked its progress on a daily basis, marvelling at my incredible creation and boring anyone who would listen about my beautiful progeny.  The plant grew beautifully and then it even hit 6 feet tall and began popping out tiny, green tomatoes.  I salivated as I waited for the tomatoes to ripen.  As the plant grew, it became clear that something was wrong.  At first the tomatoes were doing well but then came a point where they failed to thrive.  The plant produced small fruit rather than the large pounders I was led to believe.  Furthermore, the leaves started developing brown spots and I tried everything to fix the problem but to no avail.  It was a big disappointment.  And I analyzed the situation and figured out what I had done wrong. 

And I realized something.  That you can’t truly grow anything.  You can “garden” but you can’t “grow” anything. You can till the land, plant the seed, provide it with nutrients, and water it but that is the limit of what you can do. The rest is up to the plant. It will either grow in the environment you created for it, or it won’t.  If it grows, its growth will unfold according to a set of instructions encoded in its DNA interacting with the environmental conditions. 

Similarly, you can’t make your child eat vegetables.  You can’t make someone love you.  You can’t make the employer give you that job.  How many things do we view through the lens of “direct action?”  What we think is work that we are doing is really work that we have (almost) nothing to do with.  It is work that happens indirectly and it will either unfold the way we want it to or it will not. 

Are there activities that you’ve been viewing through the lens of “directness?”  Are there changes you’ve been trying to effect but have been unsuccessful?  Perhaps you have the illusion that you can effect this change directly.  Maybe the problem isn’t your effort but your perception. There comes a point where you can’t do any more and you have to let the rest unfold on its own.  Instead of arguing with your spouse, focus on changing the environment so that your spouse willingly changes his or her mind.  Can you “plant the seed” in the other person’s mind?  Let the seed sprout on its own.  Given some time, the seed may grow into an idea in your spouse’s mind and your spouse will willingly embrace it because he or she “grew” it himself (or herself).

Focus your efforts on setting the stage and creating the right environment that will lead to change rather than acting on change directly.  And then watch it unfold.

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~ by truthcurve on February 26, 2007.

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