I first heard the verse spoken by poet Robert Bly in the Eighties as he read a poem by Antonio Machado: “What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”
It stopped me in my tracks and has echoed in my mind all the decades since.
Antonio Machado was a Spanish poet who came to prominence early in the twentieth century.
But his haunting question certainly applies to all of us in the first part of the twenty-first century.
For context, here is the entire poem…
“The Wind, One Brilliant Day” by Antonio Machado
The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.
“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”
“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”
“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”
The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”
What garden was entrusted to us? Several gardens, actually. Among them, Liberty, Freedom, Technology, Knowledge and Wisdom.
I could list many other virtues such as Enlightenment, Humanity, Science, Logic, Understanding, Compassion and Empathy.
We are trustees of the culmination of everything that civilization has endured, fought for and evolved through since the dawn of humankind and what are we doing with this gift? Whining. Complaining. Fighting. And, at our worst, destroying.
So much for evolution.
Our nation is currently more divided than any time since the Civil War. The Woke Left and the Alt Right are each absolutely certain that they are the keepers of the truth and the only way forward and if you don’t agree with them, then you are the problem.
Each extreme side vilifies the other and proclaims them to be enemies of the people when common ground and common humanity would serve better as our guiding star.
We should be enjoying the benefits of generations of progress, both technologically and spiritually.
Yet, we are squandering the opportunity to live in a country and live in a world where these incredible blessings have been bestowed upon us by previous generations.
As someone who reached adulthood before the advent of the Internet, I still marvel at the fact that we now have access to all of the knowledge ever acquired and we can access it within seconds with just a few keystrokes.
Take a moment and think about how astonishing that is!
The pandemic revealed an additional benefit of the Internet. Even though so many of us were isolated like never before, we utilized our technology as a tool for connectivity via Zoom, FaceTime and other video conferencing apps. They will never replace real, face-to-face interactions, but are a powerful vehicle for connection nonetheless.
Now that vaccinations and the waning of the virus in America are enabling us to go out among other people again and although we have more opportunities for connectivity than ever before, the sad reality is that we are more disconnected than ever.
Go to the supermarket, go to the mall, go to the park and what do you see? Everyone is looking at their phone, distracted by information overload.
What was potentially the greatest gift in the history of civilization, a handheld communication, information, connection device has become an instrument of mass distraction.
While Machado asks what we have done with the garden that was entrusted to us, the next question is what will we do now that we realize we are squandering it?
There’s a truism that says, “Change your thoughts and the world around you changes.” And the logical extension of that wisdom is, “Change your actions and the world around you changes.”
It starts with you and it starts with me.
We each have a sphere of influence. Starting with you, your life and your ability to change your thoughts and change your behavior for the better. Then your influence extends to your family, to your circle of friends, to your neighborhood, to your workplace and beyond. If enough of us live consciously, this higher consciousness will spread and ultimately change the world.
I truly believe this.
When light and darkness meet in the same space, light always wins. Darkness can put up a fight and have its moments and can even create the illusion for awhile that it will win. But eons of human and cosmic history tell us that the light will always win.
Your mission, my mission is to be that light. Enlighten yourself and light the way for others.
Find common ground.
Become a worthy caretaker of the garden that was entrusted to you.
– This Guest Column By: Chris Duel