Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Joe Omundson

seed to fruit

Sometimes in life we have cycles that are like the lives of trees, from seed to fruit and back to seed again.

At conception we are seeds; microscopic cellular entities who quickly grow into the macro realm. We develop all the systems needed for life. We take on the form that is typical of our species. When this process is complete, the fruit is ready: a fully developed fetus.

It falls from the tree, it leaves the womb and enters a different format of existence, where it must find ways to meet new needs. Now it is a seed again.

The seed of a baby eventually grows into a sapling, a tree, it becomes mature, it bears fruit, it dies. The whole life cycle of a human could be compared to a tree.

More interesting to me, though, are the smaller cycles we can go through in our lives, processes of growth and formation, maturation and completeness, reduction and pain, redirection and new growth.

It takes a balance of open-mindedness and certainty to maintain health. If we are too certain, then we will never allow ourselves to entertain new ideas, to reflect on what it is we really want, or acknowledge that we are wrong about something. Certainty is an illusion. Yet if we are too open-minded, then we will not grow confident of the things we have learned in the past or be disciplined enough to maintain the best known course of action.

Adopting a seed-fruit-seed pattern in our lives allows us to experience certainty and open-mindedness in a productive way.

When we are sturdy young trees reaching for the sky and working toward bearing fruit, we are confident in our direction. We have chosen our path; we remain certain and committed. Our ideas are congealing into a cohesive whole with a known direction. Our goals are set.

When the fruit falls, and the seed is laid bare and resting in a new location, all bets are off. The rules are different here. Our best tools are flexibility, observation, and adaptation. We can keep in mind what worked best in the past, but it's important not to expect any certain thing.

As we poke from the ground and sample our surroundings, we learn by trial and error where to place ourselves for maximum growth, we throw our roots in different directions in search of nourishment. If we pay close attention we'll soon have a sense for the new game and how to direct our increasing energy into more efficient uses, and then we're on our way to becoming trees again.

One problem is that we all have parts of the seed-fruit cycle that we like, and parts that we dislike.

Some of us don't like change and instability, but feel comfortable with hard work and diligence, so we focus on growing into big trees for as long as possible until life circumstances force us to become seeds again. When this happens it is met with great anxiety. The death of the old tree is like an upheaval in our lives and we're so overcome with fear and loss that we fail to become aware of all the subtle new things that surround us. We need to focus on the present in order to grow strong again in the future. And we need more practice becoming seeds so that we don't feel out of control when it happens.

Others seek novelty and new ideas, shunning discipline and monotony, so we break off of the main tree as soon as possible in exploration. When we find a new environment, it intrigues us to learn about it, but when it comes time for stability and hard work we shrivel up. Then we drop down out of the same tree again, as a new fruit in a different location, hoping to find a situation more to our liking, something that will intrigue us forever. But we need to stick with a plan sometimes, to choose a direction and go for it, not so that we become stagnant but to become stronger in some way which will be useful for our next seeding opportunity.

As we grow from a seed into a mature tree, the goal is to learn something during that growth process and incorporate it into the DNA of the next seed. It's like an iterative algorithm, a feedback loop that keeps improving its outcome. What determines our success then is not where our first seed falls, or what our first tree looks like, but rather how fast we are able to learn and how well we change ourselves; the self-improvement machinery that evolves us more into our true selves.

If we can learn to enjoy learning, and everything it entails - cognitive dissonance, pain, subtle changes, revelations, confidence, endings and beginnings - then we are dramatically boosting the health of every future tree and seed.

The more we practice our ability to learn and improve, the easier it is to go through the various corners of the cycle.

When we do not have an aversion to any part of the cycle, we have a lot of power and traction. The line between seed and tree becomes blurred. We gain a sense of flexibility even as mature trees, and we have more confidence as seedlings, with the ability to learn and adjust DNA at any time. The rate of our personal evolutionary progress speeds up. This in turn enhances our ability to intelligently interact with other people and help them to go through their cycles as well, eventually affecting the evolution of the whole planet.

Going to college was a seed, an engineering career was the fruit. I was a seed when I started on the PCT, and finishing the trail was the fruit. I became a seed in Portland looking for a rehearsal space and my finished EP was the fruit. In all these cases I had a chance to learn a lot about different aspects of life. When I left for Moab I was a seed again, and now I'm working on growing into a tree in these conditions. I expended a lot of energy putting out random feelers everywhere and now I'm starting to see some signs of rootedness and growth. I still don't know what kind of tree this is growing into, but like always I am trying to apply all the lessons I have learned in the past, and to prepare my next seed to be the strongest one yet.

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