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When Discontent, Consider the Lily

The 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard told the following parable:

There once was a lily who lived a happy life beside a rippling brook. This beautiful little flower, in its simple surroundings, was content and carefree. Until one day. Until the day when the bird showed up. Now this feathered visitor was a showoff. A braggart and teller of tales. It would swoop in and fill the lily’s head full of stories of better places and far more beautiful flowers. Each story was crafted to convey the message that, in comparison to other flowers, and other places, this poor lily was a nobody. A failed lily. Captive to simplicity. Embarrassingly inadequate.

Following each visit from the bird, the lily fretted more. It couldn’t sleep. It no longer woke up happy. It felt incapacitated by not-enough-ness. The beautiful little flower, once content, now realized, in comparison with others out there in the wide world, it was ugly, deficient, incarcerated in its familiar surroundings.

But the bird was there to help. The bird had the answer. So together they formulated a plan.

Early one morning, the bird landed beside the lily and began pecking away at the soil around its roots. Now liberated, the lily was placed under the wings of the bird and away they flew to the better place. In that better place, where lilies were more beautiful, where life was fuller, the flower told itself it would truly be a lily worthy of the name.

But, alas, they never made it. High in the heavens, rootless and finally free of its former constraints, the lily withered. And the lily died.

Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard (Plough Publishing House, 2014), Pages 139-140

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