May 25, 2017

Mr. V's Parable

I had an encounter with exuberance itself the other day. Sincerity and enthusiasm in the form of the disembodied voice of an utter stranger at the other end of the phone line. At work, I returned a phone call to confirm theatre reservations. Little did I know I was to spend the next quarter hour listening raptly to a sage elder explain his devotion to helping others, a veritable midwife (midhusband?) of dreams. In the course of describing individual acquaintances and their struggles to recognize and acknowledge their true callings, honor their passions, and fulfill their dreams, Mr. V, as he is called, told me this story.

[I apologize for taking liberties with the truth. I remember the gist of the story, but must embroider the details as best as I can recall, inventing likely substitutions where memory fails.]
Years ago, a friend of mine quit her job. The job was negatively affecting her health. She moved away to Mexico. Both actions were undertaken literally to save her life. 

Upon settling, she began to rebuild. She planted a palm tree in an enormous clay pot on her patio. The pot was so big and heavy, it took four people to move it when empty. With attentive care, the tree grew larger.

One night, years after moving, she awoke in panic to the sound of an explosion. The nerve wracking noise sounded like it came from her very own yard. Upon investigating, she discovered the potted palm had shattered its pot. The pot exploded, shards launched everywhere. Imagine if it had happened during the day when folks might have been lounging nearby. Or what damage would have ensued if the pot had been metal - launching shrapnel upon bursting.

The root ball of the tree could no longer stand to be restricted by the limiting pot. In the morning, my friend called upon her gardener, a man who never killed a living thing in his life, not even a fly. He dug a hole in the garden, deep and wide, and transplanted the palm tree. With his tender care, the tree not only survived, the palm thrived. 

Today, thirty years later, the tree towers over the garden. Had the palm not exploded out of its restrictive pot, it would have withered and died. This type of palm, when provided with conditions to serve its nature, that resemble its native habitat, live 90 years or more and grow to soaring heights.
Lest I miss the lesson of the parable, Mr. V likened the potted palm to a life choked by pursuing the wrong path, trying to fit a square peg into a round a hole. Pursuing studies, careers, hobbies, lifestyles that aren't suited to us at the expense of honoring our inner callings - whether it's to seek perceived respect and prestige, to pull a big paycheck, to fit what someone else wants of us or what we think we should do rather than being ourselves - is like being the palm tree restricted by the pot. The root ball is choked, the tree languishes and, eventually, dies. Or it may burst forth, and with recognition of the grasp for freedom, with proper care and maintenance, the tree will grow healthy and strong.

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