Depending on the species, daisies can be white with a yellow center, purple with a brownish center, red with a yellow center, orange with a yellow center, pink with a yellow center, yellow with a dark red center or blue with a green center. Part of the sunflower family and more than 4000 years old, daisies are vascular plants. They circulate nutrients and water, and they’re attached to the ground via a rhizome. Technically, the daisy consists of two flowers: the petals taken together, and the central disc or “ray” secured by a base called a peduncle which holds the composite together.
Daisies grow everywhere on Earth except Antarctica. The most popular are the Marguerite, Gloriosa, Shasta, African and Gerbera—shown here. The name daisy derives from the Old English “daes eage,” meaning “day’s eye,” referencing the way they close their petals at night and open them again at dawn, the beginning of a new day. Scientists refer to this periodic process as “nyctinastic movement.” Bees are the primary pollinators of daisies. In the process of procuring nectar from them, they pick up thousands of microscopic pollen grains and redistribute them from the male anthers to the female stigmas. Moving from flower to flower, pollination is repeated hundreds of times each day. Some daisies are annuals, lasting only a year, while others are biennial blooming every other year.
Closely related to the artichoke and being high in Vitamin C, daisy leaves are sometimes included as a garnish in salads, soups and sandwiches. They’re also used to slow bleeding, relieve indigestion and ease coughs. In homeopathy, the “garden” daisy is known as the gardener’s friend due to the leaves ability to ease an aching back and accelerate healing after surgical procedures. In traditional medicine, the leaves were sometimes taken internally to treat laryngitis and bronchitis, and used topically to heal scratches, open wounds, hemorrhoids and bruises. Today, some cosmetic companies include them in concoctions intended to reduce wrinkles.
Daisies were first cultivated around 2,200 B.C. They’re depicted on Egyptian ceramics, were grown in gardens surrounding temples and were used to treat illnesses. According to Celtic legend, whenever an infant died, God would sprinkle daisies across the land to console the grieving family. In Norse mythology, daisies symbolized love, fertility and motherhood. Because they were the sacred flower of the Freya, goddess of love, fertility, and beauty, daisies came to represent childbirth, motherhood and new beginnings. In a Roman myth, a nymph turned herself into a field of daisies to avoid hurting the feelings of Vertumnus, the god of seasons. The English used daisies to cure eye problems and stomach ulcers. King Henry the VII was known as the King of Daisies, and the flowers are often depicted in Medieval paintings of meadows. In some places, Christians consider the daisy a symbol of the Virgin Mary or the Christ child. In Native American lore, the daisy is considered a sun symbol representing joy, life and truth. And throughout the world, people pluck daisy petals to determine if “He Love Me; He Loves Me Not.” On record are 331 people in Milan, Italy who played this game all at once.
The symbolism associated with daisies includes purity, innocence, loyal love, beauty and simplicity. Oxeye daisies symbolize patience, and gerbera daisies are gifted to send the energies of happiness, cheerfulness and a positive outlook. Considering the preponderance of negative happenings being reported in the news these days, my thoughts turn to this latter feature—to maintain a positive outlook.
George Leonard, author of The Transformation, a 1973 book that predicted a worldwide shift in consciousness due to a confluence of breakdowns in government, health, corporate greed and consumerism. It was the first book I read on the subject of social change and I will never forget it, even kept several quotes from it. Relevant to staying positive he wrote, “History has shown that the success of cultures and even of great civilizations is measured by the way they deal with crises; the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity for positive response. The same is true for individuals.”
Reading that quote got me thinking about some of the opportunities we might find in the crises that are confronting us at the moment. Leonard’s basic insight was that crisis precedes and precipitates transformation. He says a positive outcome requires a shift in consciousness because the former ways of seeing, thinking and acting resulted in a crisis, and to get beyond it with a positive outcome requires a new way of thinking and acting. Here, I reflect on four specific crises currently making news and what we can learn from them—to create a positive outcome personally and socially. In each, I observe that it’s the stress-points—what’s not working—that point to the necessary shifts in perception, thinking and behaviors that open the gate to a positive future for all.
The Covid-19 Pandemic
The stressor here is not the virus. In the first place it’s a lack of worldwide understanding and precautions relating to sanitation in all phases of dealing with living systems (the vegetable and animal kingdoms). Secondly, it’s worldwide lack of foresight and preparation against the potential spread of lethal viruses and substances, however they occur. Lacking these, the virus quickly went global and the stress continues to grow exponentially as individuals separate themselves into mask-wearers and non-mask-wearers, those who want to protect others as well as themselves, and those who either don’t care about the situation or choose to set their personal freedom above the safety of others.
The evolutionary imperative is obvious: Worldwide we need to replace intuitional and leadership reticence with understanding and become proactive in research and preparation concerning potential threats to the health of citizens. And the opportunity for individuals is to stay informed about the crisis, appreciate the social freedoms we once enjoyed, participate in and create new forms of communication and protective engagement, discover new ways to offer or express our unique gifts to the world, model and teach our children how to respond safely to the threat and especially, act in ways that safeguard the health and well-being of the whole—society, nation, world—as well as our own.
Evolutionary change takes a looooooooonnnnnnggggg time, even to learn the lessons of survival. And relatively speaking, the human project is still in its infancy. The positive perspective is the realization that as soon as a person takes advantage of the opportunities just enumerated—by living them within his circle of influence—that person’s transformed perspective creates a more viable mindset that will keep growing, because it’s in alignment with the direction of life. For these individuals, being alive at this time is both a privilege and a responsibility. In one generation, by modeling and passing on right responses to crises—positive outlook and productive perspectives and behaviors—to our children and grandchildren, we help to shorten the duration and lessen the severity of evolutionary lessons. When crises occur, we need to let them blow past, bending in the wind like palm trees in a hurricane, confident that “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.”
Here too, the stressor is not race (which biologically is a defunct category). The stressor is fear prompted by feelings and thoughts of insecurity. Skin color is just one among many signs of difference that separate people. Whatever the difference, the prejudicial mindset says in effect, “I can’t tolerate the idea that someone different from me could have more power than me—heaven forbid power over me, have more of the good than I have, be as good as me at anything or make more of himself than I can.” In everyday living, the conscious or unconscious assumption among those who foster separation is that “Whenever someone different from me—by skin color, nationality, religion, political or sexual preference—talks or acts in ways that express their difference, they validate my perception that they’re ignorant, inferior and dangerous. Where would I be if they became the majority?”
Insecurity is an inherited trait, coming from many thousands of years when homo sapiens were in competition with their two-legged cousins struggling for survival. We couldn’t tolerate their differences, so we killed them or starved them out. Fast-forward to today, global growth is closing the field, pressure due to proximity is mounting and killing is prohibited by law. Those who break it will effectively forfeit their freedom and quality of life for a very long time. Overcoming a species-adaptive trait is difficult and takes time. But one of the encouraging features of the evolutionary process is “punctuated equilibrium.” After a long period of stability or status quo, a shift occurs suddenly, almost overnight. The cause is usually a crisis, a change in the environment that requires adaptation. It transforms the way we think and act or we will die trying to preserve ways that are no longer viable.
Currently, the physical, social and global environment is changing rapidly. The Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, conservative vs liberal polarization, nationalism vs globalization, self-indulgent leadership and climate catastrophes can all be seen as breakdowns—or responses to breakdowns—calling us to wake up to the reality that we really are in this together. Failure or success as a nation depends on whether and how quickly we adapt. And everyone is needed.
I think it’s no accident that the U.S. Constitution laid the groundwork for initiating a relatively swift social transformation by proclaiming, “That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The claim is that all men and women, irrespective of gender, cultural heritage, beliefs, preferences or socioeconomic status are created equal and entitled to these rights, and not just Americans—every human being on the planet, no exceptions.
That we stand by this declaration and will give our lives to defend it is what made America great in the eyes of the world. Now, given the pressures of everyday living under the cloud of racial atrocities, our personal opportunity is to defend this claim—as we can, right where we are, with as much or little as we have. And teach our children, through historical examples and personal modeling, that all living entities at all levels are to be valued and respected for the spark of life common to us all and those we engage to become their best selves.
How Americans became so polarized along political and social lines is a long and complex story that could be debated and interpreted in many different ways. Whatever the facts and beyond speculation, the essence of polarity—including racism—is the illusion of separation. From the beginning, human beings have seen themselves as separate from one another for the obvious reason that we have individually distinct bodies and minds. That alone created competition in the quest to survive and reproduce. “My wife, my cave, my tools. Go away. Go get your own—or die trying to take what is mine.”
Fast-forward to today and the division is less about possessions and more about how we think and survive as a group. “I know what’s right and best for the group. Don’t try to convince me otherwise. I’m smarter than you, and my group is better than yours; we know what’s best for everybody because we know what they want. And you don’t. Your values are misplaced and your methods are corrupt, misguided and unworkable.
The stressor in the social polarization is not differing points of view. It’s again, fear motivated by underlying feelings of insecurity. In this instance, it stems from a desire to gain or hold onto personal and corporate power. Often both. What’s at stake is ones status, job security, worldview and sense of purpose, even the meaning of life. Combine this with the defensive posture characterized by certainty that prevents open-mindedness, and you have a room full of deadlocked barking dogs. It’s deemed essential for the members of a club to hold on to and defend its power while attempting to increase it. What suffers in the tug-of-war between two clubs chartered to accomplish a common task is the collaborative engagement of minds seeking the best method among alternatives to optimize the success of their shared commitment.
The obvious opportunity relating to social polarization in the political arena is to vote for representatives at all levels who are openminded, intelligent, empathetic and collaborative as well as champions of the issues we care about. In this regard, a red flag should go up whenever anyone speaks in language that puts the club first. Staunch loyalty to a group, any group in any setting, tends to block consideration and collaboration.
Another opportunity, arguably the most effective and positive one personally, is to affect a shift in perception by dispelling the illusion of separation. This is accomplished by noticing the many ways in which we’re interconnected and interdependent, and importantly, living its implications, for instance not judging and complaining about others or their situation, acknowledging successes, sharing information and resources, helping where help is needed and offering advice when requested. And a crisis of any kind always provides an opportunity to respond virtuously, for instance to practice such things as patience, kindness, generosity, friendliness and compassion. Globally, important outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic include appreciation for those in the health and helping professions, and the realization of just how interconnected and interdependent we are.
The stressor here is not the changing climate. Not enough of us have experienced it. Evidence of it in worldwide catastrophes can be disregarded by some as anomalies. “And even if it’s real, I’ll be long gone before it happens where I love.” And there are people who don’t make the connection between the weather and the quality and availability of the food they eat. The stressor here is the prospect that laws will be enacted that will restrict freedoms and negatively impact life and livelihood. “I won’t change my ways until it becomes necessary, and that day’ll never come.”
The opportunity for the rest of us is to become aware, to read and understand how species are dying and what is compromising the health of the planet as it responds to human activity. Then, to act on behalf of all living systems by doing what we can to reduce our consumption of non-renewables and cultivate habits that contribute to life enhancement, diversity and sustainability.
Instead of striving for “zero impact,” which is negative, in Climate: A New Story Charles Eisenstein advocates a positive approach in relating to the environment. Instead of leaving no trace, he says, “Leave a beautiful trace or leave a healing trace. (And ask) What is our proper role and function in service to the health, harmony, and evolution of this whole of which we are a part?”
As noted, we are not separate from each other. Neither are we separate from the Earth. What we do to the planet we do to ourselves. In writing this, I notice that the pressures we’re facing stem from the same root—we don’t yet know who we are, why we’re here and how deeply interrelated we are. I could elaborate on other crises such as nationalism vs globalization, cybersecurity, terrorism and poverty, but the lessons they’re trying to teach us—and the transformative opportunities they present—are the same. Currently, the great human divide that evolution is trying to break is the question of meaning. Are we in this world solely for our personal enjoyment, advancement in status and wealth so we can have varied and exciting experiences? Or are we here to learn, grow and contribute to the health and well-being of all living systems as we follow the paths that give us joy? If we look closely and with the heart, I suggest the answer can be found in the face of a daisy.
The most powerful thing you can do to change the world is to change your own beliefs about the nature of life, people and reality to something more positive… and begin to act accordingly.
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