The Camellia Blooms
During my morning ride this past Monday, I noticed a small, dark red bloom on the camellia bush planted in the berm between our house and our neighbors. The shiny, waxy green leaves of the bush surrounded the bloom and its bright yellow pistil like a protective bowl. Tucked away in the large bush, the bloom was a pleasant surprise during the damp, cold January ride on the stationary bike. But by Friday of the same week, the camellia bush shared more surprises.
Before the week was over, I had counted four other like blooms on the camellia bush. All were tucked on the south side amidst the vibrant green leaves of the bush. It seemed that each day I would see a new bloom. But by the end of the week I wondered: Had they all been there all along, and I had just failed to see them; or, had they each opened as the week progressed? Did seeing the first one on Monday sensitize me to see the others or did seeing the first one alert me to be watchful for the blooming of others?
The camellia bush and its five blooms (so far) have been on my mind as I read about the impeachment trial of President Trump this week. I am saddened by the extremes expressed by so many politicians and that it appears none are willing to govern from the middle but wish to push and pull from the fringes in order to seek and have favor of either Trump or others. Our political leaders have, it seems, forgotten that a car can run off either side of the road. Many talk. None listen. Few see.
For whatever reason (Divine Intervention, for instance), I noticed the first, satisfying camellia bloom on a cold January morning ride. Before the brief week was over, I had seen four more delightful blooms. Each bloom by itself and as part of the group was a pleasant surprise that emerged to help break the bleakness of January days.
But, what if, for instance, I had been too intent on finishing my ride that I had not glanced over to the berm on that Monday and saw the first bloom, or I had ignored the first bloom as insignificant, or any number of possibilities. I would never have had the pleasure of those blooms during these January days. They now enrich my life. For many reasons. Because I was blessed enough to see, I now know and can appreciate the blooms.
Dr. Gordon Livingston in Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart shares his story as a young lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. One day as he stands studying a map, his veteran platoon sergeant approaches and asks, “You figure out where we are, lieutenant?” Livingston tells him that the map indicates that a hill should be near them, but that he does not see it. “Sir,” the veteran sergeant says, “if the map does not agree with the ground, then the map is wrong.”
The politicians this week and us in our everyday lives face the same quandary as young Livingston: Our “map” at times does not agree with the ground on which we stand. That is when we must have enough principle and trust in ourselves and institutions to know that the ground on which we stand is more accurate than any of our wishes or desires. It is then that we must ignore our internal (and self-serving) map and examine the ground where we find ourselves. It is then that we might re-group and put our wishes and desires into a new order. It is then that we must admit that the hill is not present, and we may be where we did not think we were. It is then that we admit to, at best, some confusion, and ask for help. It is then that we become a better human being, politician, and lieutenant.
When we see the camellia bloom, we see more than an open-faced flower with pistil. We see individuality swelling into a sea of sameness that constitutes beauty, and we then will see that there are others, all alike but different, but all blooms giving life to the larger form—the bush. Then upon listening we will hear its beauty speak, like all blooms of all nature, like of all creation.
It is then that we will realize that we are not lost or alone or in opposition to anyone or anything. It is then we will find that the map we thought was correct was false. It is then that we will follow one of principled integrity, not self-serving malice to all.