An old question poses an important paradox for all who struggle with the problems of life. “Should we condemn a rose for having thorns, or rejoice that it is a beautiful, fragrant flower?” This inquiry challenges how we see our world. Do we focus predominantly on the elements that annoy us and cause us distress, or do we appreciate the many wonderful features of our life?
Some people act as if their major purpose in life is to find fault, criticize, and attack what they find undesirable. By doing this, they are choosing to live in continual indignation, alienation, and discontent.
Those who practice psychic self-destruction often make finding fault, criticizing, and being disappointed a dominant theme of their life. For some, staying in a destructive frame of mind is a lifelong habit. The more mistakes, corruption, and neglect they find, the more entrenched they are in a gloomy or hostile attitude about life. Life then becomes a game of struggling to avoid what they don’t want and getting what they desire. The inevitable result is an abundance of frustration interrupted with a few bursts of enjoyment, and lengthy periods of monotony.
There is no denying that reasonable people will find many aspects of life less than ideal. However, we do not need to be seduced by the pursuit of comfort and avoidance of discomfort. There is a more mature way to view and manage the events of our life. We can, instead, accept that life is always a mixture of the worthy and unworthy, desirable and undesirable, good and evil. We just have to learn to align ourself with the constructive elements of life and use them to counter the destructive aspects.
While this achievement is not easy to do, it is easy to understand. The key insight we need lies in the symbol of the rose. We must learn to see that the beautiful rose comes with thorns—not that a nasty and often hurtful thorn bush occasionally produces sweet-scented flowers. This is not just a clever play upon words. It is the revelation of a new paradigm for enlightened living that contains much practical wisdom about understanding our life and purpose in living.
The relevance of the symbol of the rose with thorns is enormous. In effect, we are the living rose bush. We contain an oft-hidden potential for rising above the thorns of life and blooming. We are capable of tapping the full flower of our wisdom, goodwill, and skill to become competent, creative, compassionate, and useful in the world. The “scent” of our kindness and joy is something we can radiate to the world to bring harmony and peace to our relationships.
Once we comprehend this deeper and more noble purpose for our life and daily activities, our life can be transformed. By this shift of focus, it becomes possible to be led by an inner design and power that lifts us above a mundane level where we struggle to find comfort and avoid unpleasantness. Of course the “thorns” are still there, but now we recognize them as a natural part of our life—not a dominant feature! We are here to flower in all our virtues and genius. We are here to cultivate and express our joy, goodwill, courage, and dignity—not just fight off our problems.
Those who think of themselves as realists will scoff at this statement, regarding it as impractical and excessively idealistic. They will look to countless examples of those who struggle in continual misery and decry this as fairy tale babble. Yes, many people live under difficult circumstances, but this does not mean that they have no inner seeds of greatness or a noble purpose in living. It only means that they have not yet developed a mature understanding of their humanity and its compelling life of wisdom and virtue—the figurative rose of our deep potentials.
The shift to a new focus in living begins as we accept the possibility that all of our life experiences are meant to serve a purpose larger than our personal convenience or pleasure. The rose, as a living plant, takes sustenance from the light of the sun and the water and nourishment of the soil to thrive. It also benefits from the skillful care of humans who prune it to shape and fertilize its growth into a mature, beautiful plant with scented flowers. The challenges of wintry snows, insects, drought, and rodents are all part of its existence. It does not live to protest bad weather or fight off insects or fungus. It lives only to fulfill its purpose to be the best rose it can be. In effect, every part of its life and experiences must serve its ultimate destiny.
We must view our purpose in life in the same way to reveal and pursue our destiny as a human spirit in form and character. Of course, the problems of “insects, fungus, freezing weather, and drought” are different for us, but just as real and difficult. The things that can annoy or oppose us are more complex, and the rejections and harassment we experience are more painful. The equivalent of drought becomes the deprivation of love and support we need. All these things can be painful and discouraging—unless we find meaningful purpose in these events and never lose our focus on a greater destiny.
The rose bush is programmed to follow its fate—even to death—despite nature’s handicaps. It does not have our sophisticated knowledge or free will, so it is not capable of being distracted by its handicaps or other opportunities. We, however, can choose to go to war against what we believe opposes our desires and comfort. This can lead to a life where we ignore much of our noble human destiny and become just another person who is led by their earthbound appetites.
The other choice we have is to recognize and follow our deeper human fate. When we accept that we come to earth with the seeds of greatness in us, our life takes on new meaning. Like the rose bush, we are also supported by the light—not of the sun—but of wisdom. We are nourished by the “water” of love, joy, and kindness. The “soil” that sustains us is the sum of our learning experiences.
As we engage in all of our opportunities and chal- lenges we develop the knowledge, skills, self-control, and courage we need to be successful in life. Like the rose bush that is able to resist most insects and fungus, we too can acquire the attributes that help us resist the hardships of our life while building strengths and virtues.
Unfortunately, there are many who fail to grasp even a small hint that they have a deeper nature and purpose than the appetites of the body and ego. These are the people who are likely to engage in psychic self-destruction by being greatly discouraged about hardship or angry about being attacked or deprived.
If we view our life situation as largely full of threats and hardship, we are apt to miss how these difficulties spur us to develop the knowledge, skills, and strengths to overcome them. However, if we resist the temptation to give up and resign ourself to suffering, we will be able to grow beyond our current understanding and abilities to relieve our distress.
We can respond to life’s challenges in a radically different manner than those who insist on practicing psychic self-destruction. This will require us to take time off from nursing our wounds to attune to an inner power. Here can be found something great and wonderful that will push us to thrive even in the midst of difficulty and distress. When we harness this inner power by our faith, trust, and imagination, we will find the vision to direct us through the confusion of dark emotions and helplessness. We will also find the courage to think and act in ways that lead us through conflict and out of apathy, anger, and gloom.
Once the power of wisdom and courage inspires us, we can tap the threads of our destined wholeness to flourish wherever we are. Like the half grown rose bush, we may not have come to the full bloom of our potentials, but we can face each day knowing that we are pursuing a destiny far greater than our current condition.
The empowering life of our inner purpose for living will sustain us in all our worthwhile endeavors.