True Living

Let man realize that Truth is essentially an intrinsic virtue, in his relation to himself even if there were no other human being living; it becomes extrinsic as he radiates it in his daily life. Truth is first, intellectual honest—the craving to know the right; second, it is moral honesty, the higher to live the right.” ~ William George Jordan

Gaining acquaintance with the truth is a twofold process. It is not simply enough to know the truth, you must live the truth for it to become something more than theory to you.

Truth is not a mere absence of the vices. This is only a moral vacuum. Truth is the living pulsing breathing of the virtues of life. Mere refraining from wrong-doing is but keeping the weeds out of the garden of one’s life. But this must be followed by positive planting of the seeds of right to secure the flowers of true living…The whole truth rests not in either but in both.” ~ William George Jordan

The shifting season has inspired me to review the landscaping around my house. It is clear that some of the more mature plantings are ready to be culled in addition to a number of wild plants that grew well during the summer drought, a move that will open space for new plantings. Both must be done to gain the right aesthetic. So it is in true living.

I’ve mentioned the idea of having both a to-do list as well as a to-not-do list, an idea which springs from a recognition of the twofold process that allows a deeper knowing of the truth. If you focus strictly on the new plantings, the weeds from days past are likely to choke out any new growth. On the other hand, focusing exclusively on clearing out that which no longer fits, while failing to sow any new seeds, the garden of your life is likely to become increasingly barren. Both must be performed in balance for there to be a healthy, happy life.

You will likely find that there are “seasons” in the course of the week and your lifetime that favor the emphasis of culling or sowing. These “seasons” have certain markers, recognizable characteristics that will point to the fact that it is time to weed or time to plant. For me these “seasons” often coincide with the annual seasons, the fall being a time of harvest, pruning and purging and the spring being a time of planting and tending to new sprouts. There really is a time for every season and the more relaxed you are in being yourself the more likely it is that you will recognize the signs of the coming season.

There may also be visual cues, where things – your email inbox, the files on your desk, the “stuff” in your car or in your bedroom, the increasingly difficult to shut junk drawer – pile up and signal to you the need for culling. Or perhaps emotional cues, where you feel “full” and where just one more trouble is likely to put you over the edge. Likely a time to release a thing or two, through forgiveness, by letting go, or deliberately rising above some element that has gotten your goat for too long.

The time for planting is often marked by a feeling of spaciousness, often after times of rest or after a significant change of pace, like a vacation or a prolonged illness. You have likely found in your life that there are times where you seem to have a surplus of seeds, be it capital, energy, opportunities, trust or a number of other elements in life that can be leveraged for personal growth. Sometimes you have to remove the rocks and stumps before plowing the field and sometimes others will do it for or with you. Never miss an opportunity to plant the right seeds for a better future.

This is why behaviors such as complaint and revenge are so foolish to undertake. Every time you complain or seek vengeance upon another you are planting weeds in the garden of your life. These weeds have proven to be hardy and can grow in just about any climate, and the plants that come from these seeds rarely prove to be useful in relation to future harvests. In fact, they always complicate life, reduce future yields and cost the sower dearly.

You cannot maintain a pure heart and an open mind if you refuse to weed out those elements that no longer belong in your life or hesitate when it comes to planting the seeds of your future. The regular cycle of living, the flow of life will become frustrated and your life will gradually shift from being a well-manicured garden to a tangled mess.

Take hope, however, for you can start where you are, no matter how overgrown your garden may be. Look to oscillate between weeding and planting and your garden will slowly but surely take shape, giving evidence of the increasing purity of your heart and clarity of your mind. Unfortunately there are no mental and emotional landscaping companies that you can call to come in and give you a fresh start. You have to start where you are, for this is a process that works best and most sustainable from the inside out.

7 thoughts on “True Living

  1. Colin

    When you find the proper balance between culling and planting, things will generally have a certain balanced feel to them. I believe that you have used the word sprezzatura before, and this is a prerequisite if you are looking to have that in your life. I have heard the opinion that you only can have this balance if you are lucky, or at certain times in your life, etc., but I believe that if properly cared for, the garden of life can have the proper aesthetics at any time, period. It is just a matter of learning the sensitivity of the seasons, and of caring enough to do the work when the time is right. The key to that last bit is when the time is right. So many times I have seen myself and others try to do something before or after the natural time. It is usually pretty ugly, and even if you are able to force it through, you used much more energy than was required. If you really wish to know the truth you must know patience, but you also must retain the ability to move at a moment’s notice and to accept change without griping. In other words, you must be both strong and supple. Anything else won’t cut it.


  2. DeeDee

    This is a wonderful analogy. It gives me a new perspective about times of surplus, constriction, really ANY time… there is always something to be done in the garden!


  3. Lady Leo

    There are many elements to what our lives become, but taking responsibility to be the gardener; seeing ourselves as a co-architect, empowers us to change what we can, accept what we must and understand where we contribute to planting it.
    Wonderful post I appreciate your perspective.


  4. Coco

    Excellent subject. Reality TV and the internet has made revenge and rancor common expressions in our present society. Understanding the malignant growth it unleashes in your own life is valuable. Also recognizing that we must be cognizant of what is being planted, it is where a change of heart is made tangible in our lives by our new behavior.


  5. Ricardo B.

    Just like in health, where health is not simply the absence of disease; it is a presence that radiates strength and vitality, of body mind and heart.
    Another most valuable perspective on life – the cyclical, rhythmical, causal nature of life. Farmers sure have to work with this one though it is no less important to anyone else. You can see how foolish it is to try to circumvent this law and try to trick reality/nature to produce what we want outside natural limits. We’ve seen the resultant disaster manifest in economics, finance, health, science, agriculture – you name it and it’s been done, so when is it going to stop?
    I suppose it has to stop with us, in our personal lives, where we yield to these limits and become responsible in all areas to tend to our ‘gardens’ in the manner you describe. I’m all for progress and advancement, but not at the cost of tinkering with and bending natural law, for nature will always have the greater strength to restore balance. Our strength comes from this, and so the choice we have is how to best harmonize our efforts with this great underlying pulse.
    It’s vital to feel the rhythms and seasons of each day/week/etc. like you mention for it serves to weave our lives into a larger pre-existing context. I could only imagine what this context would look like if we all lived in accordance!


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