Friday, April 14, 2023

Flower’s Power

Mulr-colored psychedlic flowers on a black background.
 “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly our whole life would change.” –  Buddha

Humans have an undeniable attraction, and even reverence for, flowers that is unlike our appreciation for other objects in our natural world. Throughout our history, people have been inspired by flowers to write poetry and songs, give them symbolic power, philosophize about their purpose in the world, add them to our folklore, paint and draw them endlessly and so much more. The famous German philosopher, Goethe, claimed that he could look at a flower and experience our whole cycle of existence. Leaves or grass or sand have never garnered such adoration. What is it about flowers that moves us so?

Pink tulips with their bulbs still attached. Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash.

Roses that represented the factions in the Wars of the Roses. From left: Red Rose of Lancaster, Tudor Rose and White Rose of York.
Roses of the Wars of the Roses
Flowers have shaped human behavior throughout our history and the importance and symbolism given to them has caused great destruction and ruined millions of lives. The Wars of the Roses (1455–1487), is a good example. The rose plant had nothing to do with the conflict (it was a “who will be king” thing), but it became a matter of life or death if you identified with the white or red roses. And then we have Tulipmania in the mid-1600s in Holland. At that time, tulip bulbs became a highly desired commodity, and their cost became wildly inflated. There is some question of just how crazy things got, but there’s no doubt that people suffered for their flower obsession. Then there is the flower that caused a number of wars and assorted violence and is still destroying lives on a daily basis – the opium poppy.
Tables of people earing and drinking at tables under blooming cherry trees. A Hanami Festival in Kyoto, Japan.
Hanami Festival - Kyoto, Japan

The Japanese have tuned the simple act of admiring flowers into a cultural phenomenon. Known as Hanami (flower viewing) the tradition of gathering to contemplate flowers dates back to at least the Nara period of their history (710-794 AD). Over the centuries, this practice has become focused on the undeniably gorgeous cherry blossoms of spring. These flowers are so important to the Japanese that, in 1909, the mayor of Tokyo gifted Washington D.C. cherry trees as a token of friendship between the two countries. This gift is appreciated every year by the throngs of people who come to D.C. to see the glorious blooms.  

“The rose is the flower and handmaiden of love – the lily, her fair associate, is the emblem of beauty and purity.” – Dorothea Dix

The Flower Power photograph by Bernie Boston, taken during the March on the Pentagon, October 21, 1967
The Flower Power picture - October 21, 1967
We are all familiar with the term “Flower Power”, and for most of us it brings images of flamboyantly colorful hippies dancing dreamily while holding daisies. But the full story is much more intricately layered and features riots, the anti-war and human rights movements, and even the Hells Angels. It begins in 1965 when the poet and activist Allen Ginsberg created a vision for street protests against the Viet Nam war. He saw a street full of flowers, theatrics and religious iconography (read more here), that would answer violent authoritarian suppression with gentle words and deeds. While he didn’t specifically say “Flower Power”, in a very short time the phrase was an integral part of the late 60s zeitgeist. The ultimate expression of this is the beautiful song “San Francisco"
Multi-colored blossom. Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash.
The apple-green Coelogyne mayeriana orchid. Photo by David Clode on Unsplash.
Coelogyne mayeriana orchid
by Scott McKenzie. 

People love to ascribe meanings to the different colors of flowers. For instance, we send red roses to show passion or deep love, while pink is more playful. But some people say that colors also can influence emotional health. In this theory, flower colors don’t just symbolize a message, they directly affect the person who is in the vicinity of them. Orange flowers bring optimism and sociability  while blue ones invoke serenity.  On a side note: Green is the most common color in the natural world, but green flowers are very rare (one exception is this beautiful orchid). I wonder what the philosophers make of that?

“In joy and in sadness, flowers are our constant friends.” – Unknown

Orange and white flowers amid white table settings. Photo by Amber Kipp on Unsplash.
Over the years scientists around the world have researched the effects of  flowers on people and these studies show what we all know instinctively – no matter the type or color, flowers make us feel good.  In Tokyo, they learned that people experience physiologically measurable benefits within four minutes of looking at roses. In the Netherlands, they found that diners with flowers on their tables were in better moods. Read more here

Close-up of a white magnolia blossom.
Magnolia blossom
In the course of writing this blog, I have concluded that the deep love that humans have for flowers is in our ancient DNA. During the Cretaceous period (145.5 to 65.5 million years ago) flowering plants burst on the scene and thrived spectacularly. Scientists believe the first flower looked very much like a magnolia blossom (see it here). The advent of flowers brought changes to the world, including fine-tuning insect life, that allowed humans to evolve and prosper (more on all this here). So, perhaps somewhere deep in our souls we just get what flowers mean. 

"One perfect flower says more in its silent beauty than all the voices in the world." - Me 

Multi-colored flowers spewings from a blue Earth.
Take Care
Submitted by Pam

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