One of the ‘good’ things about our current crisis, I read this week, is that we’ve stopped worrying about climate change.
We now worry about how to survive house arrest with kids and spouses. How to prevent (grand)mother from dying in fearful isolation in her nursing home. How to keep up the home schooling routine. How to do the shopping. How to console that friend who’s relative was a victim of the virus. How to remain mentally healthy watching old football matches, old thrillers and old Andre Rieu concerts.
I learned something about how (not) to worry last week on an early morning ‘sanity stroll’ around the deserted centre of Amsterdam. Romkje and I were arrested by the many displays of flowers on the streets, in window boxes, on lampposts, in stairwells, on houseboats and blossom-laden branches, faithfully doing what they were made to do: bring colour, beauty, variety, order, rest, fragrance and a sense of wonder into our troubled worlds.
They’ve always been there, of course. As part of the blurred background one vaguely registers while cycling or walking briskly towards the next appointment. But now, with no appointments, cyclists, cars and pedestrians, their quiet and colourful presence leaps out.
They seem to beckon to me. They’ve been waiting for me to slow down enough to realise they’ve got something to say. ‘Listen!’ they whisper together. ‘We’re not just pretty decorations. We have things to tell you – like all of creation – if only you would listen.’
OK, I’m listening.
‘Good. Then get this: We. Love. Light! We owe everything to light. Without light we can’t grow. That’s a no-brainer even for us brainless flowers. Why is it that men love darkness? What makes you humans think you don’t need the light from above? that you can decide your own rules? Think about that: what’s wrong with you humans? Love light! Get all you can!
‘As each of us climbs towards the light, we point to the Creative Genius behind our existence. He is still there, still here, always watching, always present, always sustaining. He’s Mr. Sustainability! He invented all the greens. All the rainbow colours. And many more you can’t imagine. Each of us is a sign of transcendence, a silent witness of a bigger picture, provoking the question: where does beauty come from? Why should beauty like ours’ exist if everything is just a random accident of slime plus time?
‘We flowers enrich human lives. We lift human spirits. Deep down you all know this but can’t explain it. We bring you comfort at funerals and joy at celebrations. “Say it with flowers!” you say.
‘Each of us is unique. We come in many types and colours – roses, tulips, crocuses, daffodils, carnations, azaleas, chrysanthemums, dahlias, cyclamens, orchids, irises and geraniums, and many more. But like you humans, we are created with individuality – by a personal Creator.
‘As flowers, we are unique in another way, like humans. We exist nowhere else in this whole huge cosmos. We are rare cosmic decorations. Lucky coincidence? Your scientists think the closest earth-like planet where life as we know it just maybe possible, where water perhapscould exist in liquid form like in the canal in the photo behind us here, is only 22 light-years away! Big comfort. Despite the fables of Star Wars and Star Trek, the practical reality is that all life as we know it exists nowhere else than in this paper-thin sliver of atmosphere enveloping our planet. Ponder this during lockdown.
‘We flowers need our roots. Cut off from them, we are doomed, even if our beauty holds for a few days. Roots are our source of life, your source of life. Where did all this life come from in the first place? And how does it keep surging back, spring after spring? We can’t reinvent ourselves, or design our own futures. Strange that your clever professors don’t understand that. For us, life is much shorter than for you. May this crisis make you ponder life and death, and what is truly valuable. May the clearer skies and cleaner air during this shutdown inspire change in everyone’s lifestyle.
‘May you listen to us, to the rest of creation, and to the words of the Creator Incarnate, without whom nothing was made that was made.’
Don’t worry. Ponder the flowers of the field. They don’t labour or spin. Yet not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. – Jesus in Matthew 6.
My eyes well up with tears. These flowers really do speak to me.
Schuman Centre for European Studies