Foxtail Grass


“Going with the flow” has become a popular expression, suggesting that the better life strategy is to align with rather than resist what is happening. As guidance for individual behavior, paddling with the “current”—in the context of home, work and relationships—is certainly easier than paddling against it. The image of waving grass brought to mind the word “flow,” and after some consideration, I decided there was more to be observed than just wind and grass. From a whole systems perspective, I note that the stalks that support the tassels are rooted in the earth. They stand together as a community, and they lean in the same direction in response to the wind. Systemically, as a group, they evidence harmony.

Considering flow at the most basic level, I think of atoms uniting to form molecules, molecules combining to form cells, cells joining to form organisms, organisms integrating to form bodies and so on. In nature, flow is represented in schools of fish, crop fields, herds of wild mustangs and flocks of birds, all moving together in harmony with each other and with their environments. Human communities that evidence flow include high functioning families, teams and synergistic work groups where people are all moving in the same direction. On a grander scale, Sweden, Japan and Canada are often cited as societies that are harmonious and less militant, places where there is less social discord and more people living happier lives. Why is that?

The question is too big and complex to even approximate a reasonable answer, but it elicits a smaller question that peaks my interest—What are the energies that result in or give rise to flow in human systems? An answer to that would also suggest the qualities that contribute to harmony. One thing for certain, they are notas evidenced by religious and political polarization—the energies of intolerance, inflexibility and interfering.

Because analysis of living systems begins with an assessment of individual members, specifically their behaviors and relationships, I pulled up a list of some of the higher human character traits that were part of my “Vision For Television.” Here, I think they go a long way toward suggesting the energies that contribute to flow in a society. As we experience these energies in others, they are awakened in us. And given even a small group, they can shape the direction of social change.

Acceptance • Altruism • Appreciation • Awareness • Caring • Compassion • Confidence • Cooperation • Courage • Creativity • Curiosity • Empathy • Faith • Flexibility • Forgiveness • Goodwill • Gratitude • Helpfulness • Honesty • Humility • Humor • Imagination • Integrity • Intelligence • Intuition • Kindness • Love • Patience • Respect •   Responsibility • Reverence • Tolerance • Trust • Wisdom • Wonder • Zest for Life

On balance are the energies that retard flow and harmony, evidenced by the destructive “winds” blowing in the Middle East and other parts of the world where separatist factions and fundamentalist ideologies are bent on destroying each other. Like grasses on the prairie, it makes a huge difference where we are planted. Those who paddle against the flow of life may expend a great deal of energy, but relatively little is accomplished that is forward moving and sustainable; the nature of conflict is simply to escalate.

Feeding my long-term optimism are the seeds of reason, respectful communication, intelligent creativity, wisdom, planetary stewardship and the rule of law, energies that are on the ascendency as evolution favors increased freedom, order, complexity and consciousness. How grateful I am to have been planted in such rich soil.

The evolution of consciousness always moves in the direction of greater love, inclusiveness, tolerance, synthesis, freedom, and empowerment, however slowly and painfully.

Corinne McLaughlin

About This Image

Title: Foxtail Grass

Theme: Flow

File #: DC4489

Location: Blunt, South Dakota

I’d stopped to photograph an abandoned granary alongside rusted and weed covered railroad tracks. At the road’s turnaround I noticed several clumps of this grass waving in the breeze. So I settled myself on the ground in front of the largest clump and took several exposures, varying the shutter speed and screening the results until I had just enough blur to indicate movement.


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