Winter is cold-hearted,
Spring is yea and nay,
Autumn is a weather-cock
Blown every way.
Summer days for me
When every leaf is on its tree.
(Christina Georgina Rossetti)
TO ME, THERE IS SOMETHING JOYFUL ABOUT SEEING A LUSH FIELD OF CORN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GROWING SEASON. I’m not sure why, but a field full of something so obviously “growing” fills me with a strange mixture of comfort and motivation. It’s reassuring to see what nature can do — and sobering to remember that I’m also a part of nature, with some growing of my own that I need to do.
We need to be people who are growing. Granted, we don’t have to make significant progress in our lives every single day of the year — there will be seasons of growth for us, periods when we make more progress than at other times. Intentionally or otherwise, our fields will often lie fallow. But over time, we need to be growing.
Even in old age, when we’re on the downside of the physical life cycle, there is still a sense in which we need to keep pressing ahead. There are still things to be learned. There are still new frontiers to be explored in our hearts and minds. And, yes, there is probably still some work to be done, good work that can enrich the lives of those around us. We can’t escape our mortality — it’s foolish even to try — but we can keep going forward and avoid drifting backward.
One of our most valuable beliefs is the conviction that progress and improvement are possible. They’re not inevitable, of course. Most of us have learned the hard way that our own decisions can keep us from growing. Yet whatever setbacks we may have dealt ourselves in the past, we still believe that growth is possible in the future. That’s a vital belief and we dare not let anyone take it away from us.
We have this belief because we are personal beings, endowed with free minds. We are free moral agents, and so we hold on to this thought in defiance of short-term disappointments: the courage to make right choices will lead us, sooner or later, in the direction of healthy, life-enhancing growth. If we don’t believe this, then we’re dead already.
“Growth is the only evidence of life” (John Henry Newman).