A student said to his master: “You teach me fighting, but you talk about peace. How do you reconcile the two?” The master replied: “It is better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war.” – Unknown
The proverb above most often is put to use in reference to advocate that someone learn some type of self-defense. Though I’m not knocking the art of self-defense, I’ve gotten into my fair share of school yard fights, and have to maintain a self-defense certification for my day-job, the meat of this proverb is much more profound than simply being able to kick someone’s ass if the time arises. Let’s reframe this proverb to draw out the goodies.
Throw the gardener into a warzone, form that picture in your head. Is the gardener useful or relevant? No. He is an immediate casualty, and his uselessness in the situation is not only a detriment to himself, but to those around him in the battle. This is the hidden wisdom in this proverb. One of the men is useful. One of the men is not. One of the men is relevant in any given circumstance, the other is not.
In life, in love, we are constantly bombarded by a system that builds boxes, that creates binaries, that hems us in from every edge and tells us to stay put. So we stayed put. We got good a few things. Got boxed in. Looked out for ourselves only. Ripped and gnashed our teeth when anything challenged our box. We patted ourselves on the back. Then we got comfortable. Then we became useless. Irrelevant.
“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”—1 Corinthians 9:22.
Becoming irrelevant is dangerous because it happens gradually. Just like the frog in the pot of boiling water, our circumstances can gradually tighten around us bit by bit until we are fully boxed in, boiling, unaware that our insides are overheating to the point of death. Becoming useless is a death of one thousand cuts. Each one just as tiny, but each one more deadly than the last.
Becoming irrelevant is dangerous because it disconnects us from our fellow man. We can’t meet the needs of the person in front of us or rise to the challenge the circumstance has provided. So we condemn the person and pat ourselves on the back. We run from the circumstance back into the comfort of our box, our group, our habits, our lifestyle, our idols, our gods.
Becoming irrelevant is dangerous because it is comfortable. We have eliminated stress in our lives so we find other means to create stress and drama. We sleep in cushioned beds. Listen to cushioned messages. See through cushioned lenses. We smell like opulence. We seek only the opinions of those who agree with us. We wish for convenience and convince ourselves we are truly struggling when we don’t have the latest and greatest. We can coast through life and have all of our needs met. Amen. Throw some more money into the plate.
Becoming irrelevant is dangerous because we turn into shadows of ourselves. We put our lamps under bushels instead of shining forth. We keep our greatness closed within the rote circuitry we find comfortable. We look to other sources to provide us sustenance instead of generating our own power. We expect a system or systems to feed us, when it is hunting season and we should be taking our own game. We expect fresh kills at will but know nothing of the process behind it. We sell ourselves short and let the ending be written for us. We live in the shadows because we are afraid of the light.
Let us never become irrelevant, my friends. Let us find our usefulness and light in all circumstances. Let us be the warrior in the garden, just in case we ever get thrown into a warzone.
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” –Bruce Lee
Continue with Part 2: Here’s What You Need to Know so You Can Stay Relevant