Appreciating the Flowers, Appreciating the Garbage

Andrew R. French
3 min readFeb 2

A flower contains garbage, and garbage contains a flower.

This is what Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh noted, time and time again.

He passed away almost exactly a year ago. The flower that was his life became garbage, and yet the garbage that is death will once again become a flower.

Every word and action that he manifested in his life are the seeds from which many beautiful flowers will grow.

Working towards a goal is a good thing. The entire journey toward that goal is every bit as important as the goal. All we have to do is look around at the thousands of people who have achieved the goals that they set out to do. Some of those goals are incredibly difficult. In the end, did achieving those goals make them happy? It did for a moment, and then they are left unsatisfied, wanting more. Craving once again rears its head, and off they go on a journey toward another goal.

What happens when our journeys are interrupted by sickness, divorce, and bankruptcy? We feel like a wall has been put up between our goals and ourselves. Then we feel stuck, and fearful of what will happen to us.

At some point this will happen. There is nothing unusual about contracting a deadly disease and becoming ill, or going through divorce, or experiencing poverty. These are all just part of being alive.

And yet popular media, including most of social media, movies, TV, YouTube, and so on, generally portrays this world that we live in as full of happy, attractive, healthy people, with minor problems. This makes us think that we are the only ones that are cut off from our goals, when in fact almost everyone is going through some type of suffering, some type of conflict, or some type of illness or disease. Most of us are usually cut off from our goals at some point for some reason that is beyond our control.

Self-help and self-improvement materials make money off of us by promising us that we can always be in control, that we can always pursue wealth, success, and fame if we just do the right things. If we look around at the people who have achieved wealth, success, and fame, do we find that they are happy? Some of them are, about the same ratio of anyone on the planet that is happy, under any…

Andrew R. French

Writer at the Intersection of Ecosystem and Culture