(photo credit: Chater Paul Jordan photography)
I learnt this from an old wizened woodworker in Devon. He told me that when logs or trees are cut, he looks closely at the spacing of the annual rings. When there has been a severe winter, the rings happen close together. That side of the tree is the strongest and where the carpenter needs strength in the structure, that side is used to bear the weight or tension. I watched a programme about starlings on the BBC and learnt that the wild starlings who needed all their skills to find food were more clever than urban starlings who found food and life more easy. I also learnt that for humans, it takes more brain connections to work out our similarities with someone than our differences with that person, therefore we get ‘brainier’ when we work these out.
What are these examples from the plant, animal and human worlds telling us? That hardships and difficulties make us grow- more creative, more brainy and more intuitive. Yet what do we do all the time? We try to shirk from our responsibilities and from hardships, trying to live a life of comfort all the time. Yet a life with no difficulties is not only impossible but also a life without creativity and intelligence. Nichiren says, “A fire burns higher when logs are added” and difficulties make us grow too.