Of Mud and Lotuses

“There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh.

This is a cute little chestnut that gets bandied about quite a bit, and most people seem to enjoy it.
I find it rather annoying for a few reasons, not the least of which being that I am a cynical bastard.
Mainly I object to the implication that the mud is somehow inferior in nature to the lotus, an inconvenience to be tolerated only long enough to witness the headline act.
When we were children, mud was a wonderful thing in and of itself, a source of endless joy and amusement; why should we now insist it poop forth lotuses in order to validate its existence?


A lotus is certainly a lovely thing, but its beauty is easy to see; and if we take this to be our standard of beauty, as we all too often do, then what disappointment when our mud produces no lotus, as is the case with most mud on this planet.
And what becomes of the lotus when its season is done? Does it ascend to some floral Nirvana to spend eternity in blissful Padmasana? No, it succumbs petal by petal to entropy, its Fibonacci perfection deteriorating into chaos, and returns to its lowly origin~ the mud.
Yes, I know the quote is not meant to be taken so literally.
As someone who suffers from chronic depression, I fully appreciate the metaphor of mud, and endure long periods of time mired in this murky state of being.
No, I do not enjoy it as I once reveled in my childhood mud puddles, but if all I had to get me through it were the potential appearance of a flowery conclusion, I would surely go mad.
You will note the absence of a lotus picture here. This is because the photos I use in this blog are ones I take myself in and about this little hollow. There are no lotuses here, only mud, and precious little of that at the moment.
So I am left to console myself with what beauty I can find in whatever unlikely places I might find it~ under rocks, on the trunks of trees, behind bushes, and in the mud.
Mud is full of beauty, though our tastes may not be accustomed to it. The miracle of life courses through it~ bacteria, larvae, diatoms, and countless other wonders. Our ancestors dissolved into it, and so will our grandchildren.
So many spiritual disciplines strive for enlightenment or transcendence, but seem to focus on obvious paragons of beauty as totems of passage through this world to whatever awaits beyond, while completely overlooking the myriad of beauty that lies in these places, often right under our feet.
If there is indeed some grand cosmic design set forth by some master architect, its reflection can be found as much in a single blob of mud as all the lotuses in India.

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