As a child, I truly, honestly believed that growth was a linear concept. I believed that every academic year I grew a bit more and by the time I was in 12th, I would have done all the learning I needed. College would be my adulthood and that was it. I was grown. Fin.
Then, of course, I’d live the rest of my life in a state of contemplative satisfaction going from one achievement to another.
Given how I started this write-up, by now you probably know, I was very, very wrong. I didn’t have the slightest idea that we never stop growing. Sure, physically I stopped at 5 feet 4inches but mentally I am learning and unlearning every day. If I imagine myself as a formless being, I imagine an amoeba-type force sparkly and bright and ever-shifting and growing – doubling onto itself every so often.
When I come back to earth in my life form as a woman, I think we are like the world reflected. How this world grows and expands and evolves is reflected in us. What the directionality of the evolution is, is a topic I do not feel equipped enough to answer yet. Lots of folks are attempting to make sense of what comes first but I’m taking it as baby steps. I want to understand my own contradictions first. Today, let me walk you through one.
Growth feels like a tree in a forest. I feel like once planted we continue to evolve and learn but some basics remain intact. Trees need roots, bark, and leaves. We need comfort, love, belonging, appreciation, food, and water. That’s pretty standard. For a lot of us, the leaves we grow and shed in seasons remain the same, but their vitality shifts just like the tree, based on the physical environment of the tree, its growth is faster, slower, or stunted. Simply put, we are who we are at the very core and some weeks are great and we learn, and we grow, and some weeks (as my friend put it) are poo poo weeks – our emotional and spiritual development goes to an all-time low, and we just exist from day to day. So, trees have seasons and so do we.
I love the comparison of humans to trees because it illustrates my dilemma and belief very well. First is the belief – that at the very core, folks do not change. As Master Oogway eloquently put it – “No matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.”
Now the dilemma, if we are forever learning and unlearning can folks truly change? On one end I have found myself growing, learning, and unlearning almost every day. On the other, I remain true to some core aspects that I don’t seem to outgrow.
Somehow, I can’t seem to find a thread that ties these two thoughts together in a definite and simple way. If we are ever growing and learning, the logic would presume, at the very core, we would shed our former selves and become new selves. Tormentors would learn to love, haters would learn to tolerate, thick skin could be learned, and we would as a society aim towards the highest form of psychological attainment – detachment from all and peace for self. At least that is what the Buddha and logic say. But realistically, tormentors torment, haters hate, thick skin is wishful thinking, and greed surpasses all!
I ask around often – colleagues, teachers, friends, and new moms. So far, no argument has trumped my own. Of course, theoretically, I am one 800-page book away from someone telling me how we can shed our old selves and learn to be new. But I’m not interested in the thought experiment anymore. Nothing has convinced me that realistically in this complex and demanding world, our very core can be shed. At least, nothing yet.
And funnily enough, that’s okay. It gives me hope for a new learning for another day. I hope someday soon, I come back and write about the link or the thread between our core selves and our ability to learn to change it.
Until then, all I can hope for is to keep learning, keep growing.
To keep expanding in the universe.
P.s Yes that is me standing in a doorway pretending to be a giant tree.
Very nicely written. Your writing has really matured. Keep it up.
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