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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Not Blaming the Lettuce

Happy Birthday, my sweetheart Deane. Here's a song for you: You're Still The One!

A couple of weeks ago, I sent the following quote to my family and friends:
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.” This quote was written by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Master and Spiritual Leader.
I have read one book by Thich Nhat Hanh some months ago. He is a peace activist and believes that we can be truly in harmony with one another based on our “inter-beingness” or, in simple words, inherent connectedness.
Going back to the quotation above, I would agree that we cannot blame the lettuce if it does not grow well. However, to make the analogy that a human person is like the lettuce, and therefore we cannot blame an individual person if he/she creates problems for us, is utterly illogical and false. The lettuce has no choice upon which soil it grows. The human person can choose to stay in the same environment or find a better one. It is true that like the lettuce, an individual has certain “given-ness” — a given family, a given race, a given country, even a given body. But unlike the lettuce, a person can rise above these given conditions and choose to “transplant” himself/herself to a more liberating environment, conducive for growth and positive flourishing.
Following the logic of the author, I agree that to a certain extent we can take care of our families and friends so they become better persons through us. However, there is only so much we can do for them. We cannot be totally responsible for them and their growth. They also have to take care of themselves and promote their own self-growth.
Do we blame some people who create problems in our society? It’s not really about blame but rather about accountability. One must be held accountable, for example, for hurting, maiming, or abusing others. We cannot exonerate them by using the analogy of the lettuce. We cannot excuse people for their wrong-doing by saying that they were not given the chance to grow in a good environment. The challenge of being human is to face up to one’s decisions and actions. No blaming involved. We are judged by others just as we judge others on what they do or don’t do. That is accountability. We are accountable for our actions while the lettuce is not.
To a certain extent, we can try to understand others. However, we cannot have a comprehensive understanding of others to allow us to love them completely. If we can only understand others fully, then we can love everybody. Sad to say, we do not have that capability because of our human limitations–we cannot know everything about others nor can we know everything about ourselves.
To conclude, I should say that we are not like the lettuce and never will be. Thank God we can choose the soil upon which to develop our humanity.

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