Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mid-Week Musings

Wild Seeds and Nomads

...and so it happened that one with roots as deep as the wild fig, pulled free and soared up and on towards the seven seas. Others in the grove held tight, whispering farewell in fading light. As I was walking this morning, I came across patch of weeds that, against all odds, took root in a dry and barren soil. I once read that weeds were simply flowers growing where they were not wanted. Looking at the brilliant blue of the flower thrown by the chicory plants that dot our river walk, its absence from modern gardens is as hard to explain as its legend is easy to tell. In one such story, a beautiful maiden refused the advances of the sun and was turned into a chicory flower that had to stare at the sun each day and always faded in the presence of its might. Fortunately, the morning here was overcast, and I was able to capture the brilliance of the flower before it began to fade. I nipped one and carried it with me to the meeting that had me out at such an early hour of the day. I arrived a bit early and watched the group expand as members arrived. It made me smile, because like the chicory, no one in the group was native to this area. We have all pulled free and landed here to rest before continuing on to the sea.

We are a caring group who share a passion for words. I must be careful now, lest I be misunderstood and suddenly find I am a corpse in someone's latest draft. Before that happens, I must tell you that the consequences of our nomadic behavior has been studied and the mental and emotional consequences of our residential mobility has led to some interesting findings. Shigehiro Oishi, a psychological scientist, believes that mobility shapes our identity, friendships and even our happiness. He used college students to study the impact mobility has on character and personality development. His sample was divided into two groups based on how often they moved around. He first explored how they felt about themselves.

The itinerant group used personal traits to describe themselves, while those from more rooted backgrounds defined themselves in terms of group affiliations. The more mobile students were not joiners and as a result they did not have a high sense of community identity. On the plus side, he found they made friends more easily, but their "duty-free" relationships were based on shared interests and personality, rather than group membership. He, however, concluded their friendships lacked the deep sense of social obligation that characterized those of the more stable group. He went on to study which group was happier. The results were mixed. While those who moved often felt they had more interesting lives and were more satisfied with their interpersonal relationships, they had more health issues than the less mobile group. It was surmised that the novelty of new experiences led to underestimating consequences that social disruption might have on their lives. So what does it all mean? Does it matter at all?

I tend to think it has little impact on our lives. Nature, abetted by circumstance, has made some of us gypsies. Some of the happiest people I know are gypsies. I've also had the opportunity to meet people who have never left the towns in which they were born. They, too, are quite happy. We humans are remarkably adaptive creatures, and whether we have been given roots or wings, I don't think place is a huge contributor to our happiness. It helps explain our expectations and habits, but I don't think it defines us. Some of us move and some of us don't. Some plant grape vines that will endure for generations, others, alas like me, sow wild flowers each spring, secure in the knowledge the wind will carry them where they are meant to be.

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