What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote got me to thinking how I tend to view all plants as equal, yet I so easily consider other things in life “weeds.” Meaning one thing is inferior, somehow lesser than another or out of control compared to where it’s supposed to be: in control. The next time I catch myself judging something or someone as inferior, I am going to tell myself they are simply a “plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.”

Including DT in this perspective is a challenge for me, yet I will rise and say his greatest virtue is creating a crucible for people of all philosophical bents to clarify what democracy, diversity and sacrifice mean, and reaffirms my preference for my lifestyle. That I would rather work 70 hours a week at something with integrity than live in the lap of luxury on the backs of others. Countless virtues.

In the Pacific Northwest, both English ivy and Himalayan blackberry are incredibly “invasive” and labeled “noxious weeds.” Any gardener will agree. People spend hours of manpower and/or toxic chemicals trying to control them. Yet, ivy can be a living paint job on a house wall, and blackberries this time of year certainly make a mean and tasty pie or cobbler.


(today’s roadside blackberries from the neighborhood)

A spiritual ideal in almost any religious tradition is to view every last human as having some inherent goodness, some core of true nature that is inviolable, separate from whatever trauma or circumstances or messiness expresses or presents through that person. This summer, we have no shortage of victims and victimizers on the world stage. The great spiritual challenge is to invite every last weed to the party.

There’s ideal and then there’s practice. Would I really be able to see the natural goodness (buddha nature) for example in an individual responsible for the largest single-handed massacre in the world? Who by the way lives in Norway which has a criminal justice system that is adamant about treating every human as rehabilitatable no matter their crime. An entire justice system based on inherent goodness. This is so completely different from the US criminal justice system in practice that I barely wrap my mind around it. I’ve grown up in the ethos of a different way of labeling people.

These are extreme examples, but if we keep throwing weed killer at weeds, will not a superweed take its place?

The next time I encounter a “weed” I will practice pausing to consider its undiscovered virtues.


About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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