What Bamboo Teaches Us.
As the wind sheds its wintry bitterness, nature replaces its frosty white coat with a parsley green one scented with a fresh and light fragrance. A seed emerges somewhere among the closely slatted castles of hollow stems and floats with the wind. Warmed by the sun, looking for a place to rest. In the dark solitude of the womb of all plant life, worms churn the thawing mudpack, creating pockets of air lined by a thin coat of moisture waiting for its arrival. A gust allows one last dance in the open before the ground swallows the seed. It gives itself up with no reservations, and the penance begins.
Forgotten for five years, but not forgetting the promise of the forest of a just reward. Its puffy coat finally breaks, and thin tendrils emerge. Mixing with the latticework of more seasoned roots, it sends fragile threads to suckle on the forest floor for nourishment. The seed must wait for five more winters before the ground will reopen and reveal the sky, signaling that the hard work is over and it is time for the tender stem to shoot for the heavens. The majestic reed grows to a height of a hundred feet in a matter of weeks, joining the rest of the forest and adding to the ensemble of nature’s flutes. Enriching the tranquility with mellow, soul-healing sounds only the lucky among us will hear.
Called the “gentleman among plants,” bamboo has deep symbolism in many cultures. The Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi (772–846) venerated bamboo in his writings and linked its deep roots to resoluteness, straight stem to truth and honor, hollow interior to modesty, and clean exterior to chastity. In Japanese culture, snow-covered bamboo represents the ability to spring back from adversity. Bamboo endures harsh winters and hot summers. Its ability to bend with the slightest breeze symbolizes humility, depicted in a Japanese proverb, “the bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.” With twice the compression strength of concrete and a similar strength-to-weight ratio of steel, bamboo can withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.
In the forest of the mind, thoughts that reflect qualities of bamboo — tough yet flexible, humble, modest, truthful, resolute, chaste, and able to face any adversity and grow quickly — are the seeds of success in life. Such qualities don’t sprout overnight. It takes patience, perseverance, and the ability to learn from our mistakes. The wisdom gleaned from the mistakes we commit is the wealth we carry wherever we go. As this wisdom soaks into the bed of the mind, it awakens dormant thoughts that will power us through life’s many obstacles and difficulties.
Each moment we spend pointing fingers elsewhere is time lost for such inner growth. Life is a series of tests; only a ‘bamboo-like’ mind can survive life’s most challenging trials. One may be waiting for us around the corner, or we may have just emerged from one and are now picking up the pieces.