Monday, 23 July 2012

Say it with Flowers

'Say it with flowers' - that's the advertising slogan of Interflora probably the oldest commercial flower delivery service in the world. 'Say it with flowers' - it's a very simple strap line but it's clever for it seems to say something that most of us instinctively understand at a deeper level. Whenever flowers are presented or given to someone, often to, but not always, to a woman, there is a message there, a message that cannot always be adequately expressed in words. Therefore we really do 'Say it with flowers'. Flowers are used to express love, affection, or are used for celebration, for congratulations, for bereavement, for sympathy, for welcome and so on. In short, flowers become a medium of communication.

The beauty of flowers is universally recognised, the beauty of flowers is a kind of beauty that can lift us from the apparent ordinariness or drudgery of day-to-day life onto another plane, onto a plane that can transcend our preoccupations allowing us to connect with a more profound reality.

We can experience this reality in a wide variety of ways for example, when we gaze into a clear dark evening sky and witness the diamond display of countless distant stars and then taking it all in, gaze across the horizon at the relative proximity of the moon, or when we observe abundant fields of poppies or buttercups or when we see the sun's rays breaking through misty skies bringing warmth to the cold earth. In fact everywhere we look when we care to do so, we can allow ourselves to see the wonder of life, whether it be a solitary bird winging through the sky or the teeming flocks creating dark shadows as they sweep and swerve in spontaneous formation. Here we are given a glimpse of the majesty of creation of a world of which we are very much a part. But as William Blake wrote in his 'Auguries of Innocence' it doesn't always have to be the wide panoramic vision:

To see the world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wildflower
Hold infinity in the Palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour

Blake's words about seeing 'heaven in a wildflower' are an echo of Jesus' injunction to consider the lilies of the field:

'And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of those.

In this instance Jesus is speaking of the kingdom of heaven, he is advising us not to worry, not to sweat the small stuff, not to be concerned about 'storing up treasures', or what we might eat or wear.  For tomorrow will take care of itself if we seek the 'kingdom of God and his righteousness'.  If we pay attention to the spiritual life we will get our priorities right. Bogged down in worries and concerns and in our own personal dramas, we cannot live life to the full successfully and we cannot approach that peace of mind that can be our heaven in the here and now.

A boy, who had never seen his father, asked his mother what his father looked like. 'Look into the mirror and you will see,' she replied. And the God question is rather like that for us. If we want to see a reflection of God we have only to look within our own selves. The German philosopher, Hegel wrote:

'We are all from God and we carry in our minds and hearts the ripple of the divine mind.'

The meaning of life is the dynamic creative love that can be found in our own depths.

Towards the end of his life legend has it that the Buddha, standing near a pond, gave a sermon. This sermon was different from all his other sermons in one respect, it was conducted in silence. Instead of addressing his disciples, he reached into the pond and pulled out a lotus flower which he held out to his disciples, who stood close to the old man, looking at the lotus and wondering what the significance of this particular teaching was. Eventually one of his disciples Mahakashyapa began to laugh quietly. The Buddha then said. 'What can be said I have said to you, and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa". From that day onwards Mahakashyapa became the Buddha's successor. Perhaps this Zen story illustrates the Buddhist belief that some things cannot always be said or written down, we have to discover truth in our own hearts. Perhaps it was the Buddha and not Interflora who first invented the slogan; 'Say it with flowers'.