A Little Journey

Almost exactly in the middle of a great field of wild flowers lives an old and weather-worn oak tree. There is a great circle of empty space beneath this tree where the flowers refuse to grow. Wild flowers enjoy the sun too much to ever set root in the shade.

It is a little known fact within human circles that flowers are capable of intelligence. They do not have eyes or ears or mouths or, most importantly, brains and so it is assumed they likewise do not have consciousness. This, as is often the case with assumptions, is a mistake. Flowers are, in fact, very much aware. Their awareness is just of a different nature to ours. They feel the vibration of things. It is a simple little process but it works.

Despite this natural ability to absorb information, flowers, over the years, have managed to remain rather stupid; content to dance about in the breeze until the day they die. They have never sought to better themselves and it has never occurred to them, as a collective, to do anything with their consciousness. Their hive mind is much like that of humans, only far less dangerous.

While this may seem bleak, there is a happier feature they share with their bipedal brethren. Scattered within the sea of sameness, are those who know what it is to have independent thought.

One might expect these indications of intelligence would be observed in the larger or more spectacular of the flower species. Perhaps the Rafflesia arnoldii, or the Amorphophallus titanum. In reality, though, size and beauty appear to be meaningless. With no observable correlations, we have no way to accurately predict flower-intelligence. Except to say that, quite often, the greatest minds are found in the humblest places.

Which brings us back to that oak. You see, standing just inside the shade of the old tree, ever so slightly removed from the rest of the flowers, was one such extraordinary flower. The tiny being was not content to simply dance all day with the breeze as the others did. It wanted to know why. Why should it dance? Why should it allow itself to be violated by bees? And why did the bees want to violate it in the first place? It had many such questions and it pondered many things.

The flower felt bound by the earth. Trapped in a tiny patch of awareness, unable to grasp the greater meaning of what it was a part of. It knew there was more to understand but had no way of escaping the sea of dancing fools it was surrounded by.

Amidst feelings of frustration and powerlessness, it decided to give itself a name. Something empowering. Something to distinguish it from the idiots it was forced to live with. After a great deal of thought, the flower settled on “Robert”. This decision wasn’t based on gender. The flower was completely unaware of things like that. It just felt Robert was an intelligent sounding name.

In truth, it was one of only two names the flower knew. A married couple had come for a picnic one day and the flower had picked up their vibrations. They had referred to each other as “Robert” and “Lucy”. The flower had liked this idea of naming oneself and so weighed up its two options. It came to the conclusion that Lucy was a silly sounding name; not at all the type of thing an intelligent being would call itself. It left Lucy for the dancing idiots. Robert, now that was a name for a flower of importance.

And so Robert the flower continued his life with many questions but never any answers. He grew resentful and unhappy. Sun and soil do not distinguish between happiness and misery, love and hate. They simply nurture what is there.

Robert’s resentment converted the energy of the sun into concentrated bitterness. The fibers of his tiny body grew stiff. While the other flowers played in the breeze, Robert would resist, standing straight and still. If his leaves had been any higher, he would have folded them across his stalk in defiance.

In the depths of this existential crisis, another couple came to picnic beneath the oak. It was only the second time in his life that Robert had been in the presence of human creatures. He stood, firm and rebellious as usual, and listened to the vibrations of their chatter. He could feel them, rolling, kicking, free. Violent emotions pulled the tiny flower in more mental directions than it had the capacity to understand.

His silent melodrama was interrupted by an abrupt vibrational change. The human creatures were standing right above him, currents of energy coursing from their bodies to his. He stifled his own field (the plant version of holding your breath) and waited, absorbing every signal they put out. They were talking about him. A ripple of pride and excitement stirred the tiny hairs on his stalk.

“Look at it, I told you, it’s not moving at all.”

The other one, the one who hadn’t spoken, bent down. He was surprised. There was nothing to keep the little flower from moving. Yet there it stood, tall and proud, apparently unaffected by the breeze; the same breeze that was causing all the surrounding flowers to sway and dance.

The human creature got very close and blew a hard stream of air. It took Robert by surprise but he managed to hold himself still.

This excited the humans. Robert felt a surge of pride and pulled himself up a little taller. Human creatures were interested in him. One of them hurried back over to where they’d been sitting and returned with a thing they had been eating out of (Robert knew what eating was. He had witnessed it before and had observed it was a behaviour common to all mobile creatures).

Robert was alarmed to find himself being dug up. His roots were freed from the ground and then he was placed inside of the eating thing. He had a horrible vision of being torn apart by human teeth before everything was lost to the peculiar feeling of having his roots free of the ground. He felt weightless and disconnected in his plastic space capsule. Soil was piled in around him. It eased the strange feelings somewhat, but there was still a strong sense of separation.

Then there were too many vibrations for Robert to have a clear idea of what was going on. Imagine being dragged through television static. That was what the experience was like for him.

In reality, he was carried to a car and then driven, far from his home, into a big city. He was taken into a building. Inside for the first time in his life. He was transferred into a proper pot, a lovely, roomy terracotta one. It was filled with beautiful soil and this amazing stuff Robert found to be full of life-giving nutrients. Finally, he was placed in a window, high, high up in the building. It was heaven to him. He had been welcomed into the home of human creatures. Not only was it a great honour, it was the genesis of a whole new world, a world of answers instead of endless questions.

Robert was able to pick up the vibrations, not just of the humans’ conversation, but of this wondrous device called a “television”. He fell immediately and wholeheartedly in love with it. It was his teacher, his friend, his most trusted answerer of questions. It was also a giver of gifts, the greatest of which being music. The vibrations of it were pure pleasure for him and it quickly became his favourite thing in the world. His next favourite thing was learning. He learned of art and nature, of flowers and creatures. He learned about evolution. He was excited to discover humans had once been quite stupid as well. The television seemed to think it was the introduction of meat to the human diet that caused them to evolve into what they were. Robert wished he had a stomach and a digestive system. And a mouth. He imagined great, carnivorous flowers rising up out of the ground and walking around like humans. He wondered how long it would take for flowers to evolve the kind of digestive system that could support the development of a brain.

Robert wanted very much to be like a human so it pleased him greatly that the majority of what he learned from the television was about them. In the beginning, he was able to block out all the confusing and distasteful information. He was in the first stages of his love affair with the human race and, just like any human in love, he ignored the bad stuff. But then, there was just so much, it became increasingly difficult to ignore.

Robert grew to hate “the news”. It was hideous and he really couldn’t understand why the television spent so much time on it. But it did. In fact, it seemed to be the main priority of the television to impress upon Robert the great variety of terrible things people were doing. Robert resisted at first, refusing to admit these creatures he looked up to were not what he thought them to be. But day after day he absorbed the news and, after a time, he was forced to accept the cruelty of the race he had once so idolised.

Having abandoned his illusions, Robert began to wonder why the humans insisted on parading the horrible things they did. It was only the bad things, all the worst events in the world that were gathered together and presented to everyone on the news. Did they enjoy it that much? Were they so proud of it they needed to make such a big thing out of it?

Wars, disasters, hunger, suffering and the destruction of the natural world. These were the things they proudly spoke of. The things they seemed to think of as achievements. And the shows they put on for entertainment weren’t much better. They were filled with the same sort of ugliness.

There were other things, beautiful things. Art and music and love and kindness. But Robert’s tiny flower consciousness lost its balance and became overwhelmed by all which was frightful.

When he first entered the human dominion, Robert believed he was getting answers. In truth, he had been. But what he discovered was that answers always lead to more questions. There was one in particular, one question, he desperately wanted to find peace on:

Why did humans cause so much destruction?

Try as he might, Robert couldn’t find a definite answer and he grew sadder and sadder with each passing day. Every time he thought he might have solved something, he always just ended up being faced with a new and more difficult question. Still, he couldn’t let it be. The further he went, the more depressing the answers became until he came to ones he couldn’t answer at all. That destroyed him. His thoughts propelled downwards until he reached the conviction that there was nothing good in the world; nothing pure. And with that, he lost his will to live.

Another little known fact about flowers is that they can live for a very long time. Far longer than humans in fact. You see, since they don’t move or do anything at all really, all their energy goes simply into living. They have a limitless supply of nutrients which they absorb from their surroundings but all they need to do with them is just stay alive. So, providing they have adequate water, sunlight and nutrients, and providing they aren’t picked or eaten by some animal, flowers can live remarkably long lives. The problem, especially around cities, is that the flowers become depressed and lose the will to live. If this happens to a flower, it will inevitably wilt and die unless it can regain its joie de vivre. This rarely ever happens because, being immobile, they do not have the ability to change their situation and so they remain depressed and they die.

Robert fell into just such a depression. Having lost his will to stay alive, he began to wilt and fade. A weary old man on the windowsill, head drooped over, no longer interested in the outside world. This did not go unnoticed by the humans who had adopted him. However, they had more pressing matters on their minds.

Robert observed, dully, a change in the vibrations of the apartment. A great space was opening out around him. The apartment was being emptied. Many things, precious things, were thrown in what Robert – being the world-wise little plant he was – knew was the garbage. He wondered if that would be his fate too. After all, what need did these humans have of a wilting, depressed flower? And besides, humans enjoyed inflicting pain, did they not?

When Robert finally felt himself lifted from his resting place, he was already completely resigned to his inevitable abandonment. He had almost managed to convince himself he didn’t care and was working on persuading himself to welcome it.

Robert, however, was not abandoned. Instead he was carried through intense vibrations again. They continued for what seemed like an eternity. When they stopped, Robert felt a surge of something he hadn’t felt in a long time. There was sunlight. Real, unpolluted sunlight. It felt good on his weak, little body. He was filled with the most incredible vibrations. They were stronger and more pleasurable than even the greatest human music.

Then, the most miraculous feeling of all, his roots were freed from the confines of his pot. Oh the bliss of it. Freedom. He hadn’t realised how tight his prison had been. Then back into the ground. Cool earth nestled around him, embracing him. Earth, real earth. He was a part of the great, wide world again. He barely noticed the departure of the humans. He was buzzing. Alive again.

Robert had come very close to death and it took many weeks for his body to recover. But recover it did and Robert became a whole new flower. He still liked to ponder the great questions in life. But his journey into the human world had taught him to accept that his flower-logic was far too feeble and imperfect to ever really solve anything. So when he came upon questions that were beyond him, he didn’t get angry or depressed. Neither did he ignore them. Instead, he saw the beauty of their impossible complexity and, having appreciated them, he allowed them to leave him, to flow through him. As, indeed, he did with everything. He was content with his thoughts and the warmth of the sun and the playfulness of the effervescent breeze. He danced with the other flowers, happy in the knowledge that, while he may not have found enlightenment, he had at least found peace.

A Little Journey

Krystle

Brisbane, Australia

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