As I walked between the trees at the side of the Charente in Jarnac this caught my eye.
I don’t think it was only the pink and yellow colours together which grabbed me. It was the surprise at seeing this delicate flower growing right out of the trunk of the tree. Now, I’m not a botanist, just someone who is insatiably curious, so I don’t know what this flowering plant is. But I’m pretty sure it isn’t a usual part of the tree it’s growing from. There weren’t any other flowers like this further up the tree.
As usual, an image like this sparks a few trains of thought.
How do we notice what we notice?
Isn’t it usually difference which catches our attention?
One of the commonest kinds of difference which we notice is movement. By definition, motion is difference. It’s a change of place in time. It’s the flight of the barn owl from my house to my neighbour’s barn. It’s bats flying round and round the garden at dusk. It’s the sudden appearance of light and shadows as the sun appears from behind a cloud.
Another common difference to catch our attention is sound. Any sudden new sound. The wailing of a siren in a city street, the alarm call of a blackbird which has just spotted a cat, the distant church bells striking noon. The sounds we don’t hear are those which are constant. We only notice them when they stop.
What’s new is different too. We’ve got two cerebral hemispheres, and the right one, in particular, is wired to seek out whatever is new. The left might seek the familiar, but the right is attracted to novelty.
So maybe that’s another reason I noticed this strange and beautiful pink flower growing out of the tree trunk. I’d never seen anything exactly like it before.
Not least because I don’t know what this flower is, I don’t know what the nature of the relationship is between the flower and the tree. Is it parasitical? Is the flower gaining something from the tree, but not contributing anything? Or is it commensal, with both the flower and the tree benefitting from the relationship?
One of the keys to creative development and growth is integration. Integration can be defined as “the creation of mutually beneficial relationships between well differentiated parts”. In other words, it’s when there is a bond, a good, healthy, mutually supportive bond, between two very different organisms or objects.
I’d like to think this image represents that. It certainly increases my awareness of such an idea.
Integration isn’t just about the relationship of course. It’s about the well differentiated parts as well. And that brings me back to the idea of difference.
When we are surrounded by attempts to force us into pre-determined moulds, by monocultures of chain stores and pressures to conform, it can be hard to express our differences in a positive way. There’s so much fear these days of “the other”, of strangers, immigrants, of other races, other genders…….
How different might the world be if we pursued integration instead…..by not only tolerating, but celebrating difference, and finding ways to create mutually beneficial relationships between them?
Might be beautiful. Might be surprising. Might be attention grabbing.
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