I have been trying to grow an avocado seed. There is no particular reason for doing that; I am not intending to grow an avocado tree, though it would be nice if that were to occur. I simply happened to remember a preschool/kindergarten project, and suspended the seed over water, under a fluorescent light in the kitchen, just because I felt like it. So far, no roots. It may or may not grow. Either way, the seed will die as it blooms forth into a plant, or as it returns to its component parts. It is not a matter of great significance, except as all life and creation are significant.
So why put the effort into trying to grow the seed? I may never know the answer to that question. I simply wanted to do it. Perhaps it is simply practice, not for doing something small but nevertheless important, but in listening to intuition in the form of doing something potentially positive, only because I want to. The point may be the process, not the result. Process is something we seem to be forgetting in the current chaos of attention on competing results.
An enticement that comes to many of us is the desire to do something great, something obviously effective to make a difference in the world. We may wish to lead a movement, write a bestseller, rise in politics, create and head a successful corporation, invent a new solution, discover a new theory – something of stature which is also in accord with what we think needs to be accomplished. Rarely do we dream of gently wiping small noses or cleaning the bathroom or shoveling the snow – tasks which do need doing. The activities we value most are those which garner for us attention, which provide for our egos their daily ration of importance.
Perhaps after all, it is the repeated small daily actions which over time create the results we wish to see. The Grand Canyon was not created by grand bursts of excavation; rather, it came to be from small bits of erosion, maintained continually over thousands of years. The leaders who strive to save our wild lands and wildlife need the continued accumulation of small activities and advocacy from a multitude of ordinary people with ordinary jobs and ordinary lives, who also love the planet and its life. Those who provide succor to the outcasts, the disadvantaged and the poverty-stricken cannot do that work without the ongoing support of thousands of people whose mundane lives do not look a bit unusual. Politicians, despite compelling oratory and political networks, are dependent upon the backing of the people, and go to great lengths to court that. And, what will happen to corporations when, despite heroic advertising, the common people no longer have the funds to purchase their goods? Truly, it is the small, almost invisible actions which sustain results.
I started to grow an avocado seed simply because I wanted to. I cannot be attached to the outcome. It may or may not grow. It will probably have no great impact. It was an impulse consistent in a small way with what I would like to see happen on a grander scale. Most likely, its effect, if any, will be mostly on me, as a lesson that it’s OK to put effort into something small simply because I want to. I think if we pay attention, each of us will find that a fountain of such impulses bubbles forth from our hearts and minds, waiting for us to act on them. Most are dismissed with the logic that they are too small, and will amount to nothing, and are a waste of time. Often, though, these small ideas may bring us joy. Is it nothing, a waste of time, to spend a small part of our lives doing something small that brings joy? That in itself has value. In addition, one of those small things just may, sometime, be the seed of a larger result. I am reminded of a poster I once saw; it was a picture of a large redwood tree, with a tiny redwood seed beside it. The caption read, “The starting points of destiny are little things.”
Let us open our hearts to value the small, humble actions that surround us, practical or not, knowing that these are the bedrock for the sometimes inspiring, sometimes powerful and creative movements that shape our lives and the interrelated life of our planet. Our small, collective thoughts and actions are the true creators of change. Let us practice integrity in doing them, keeping each thought and action consistent with what we value at our deepest level. Let us be the meek who inherit the earth.