(updated from a post that first appeared in 2012)
Fruitful: 1a: yielding or producing fruit b: conducive to an abundant yield 2:abundantly productive, e.g. a fruitful discussion
Those who went to a church that follows the lectionary last Sunday heard a reading about the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) – fruits known as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Characteristics that any of us, whether we go to church or not, would want to build into our lives I hope. To look back and see a life of fruitfulness as defined in Galatians would be a life well lived in my opinion. Culturally, however, we’re given many more reasons to crave success over fruitfulness, and a multitude of ways to measure that success. Money, and all that it can buy. Power, and all that it can influence. Perfection, and all the envy it can inspire in others.
Fruitfulness doesn’t require any of those things. It is lasting and produces yet more fruit. It requires a cooperative effort – i.e. it will occur within the context of some kind of community – because something or someone else has to be changed by those fruitful efforts. Fruitfulness is surprising. It happens when the results of our life and vocation touch others deeply, creating opportunities and allowing the unexpected to happen.
Success, on the other hand is competitive, requiring clear goals with clear results. There is less room for surprise, except perhaps the unpleasant one of goals not being met. Your quest for success can change things, but when does a single-minded goal of being successful ever actually help anyone else?
You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…to bear much fruit, so Jesus told his disciples.
I am currently re-reading Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire for perhaps the third or fourth time. It is one of the most fascinating, mind-bending books I have ever encountered. Pollen studies four different plant forms – the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the potato – and looks at their evolution from the plant’s point of view. He makes the case that plants, in the choices that evolution has given them to feed needs and desires of other life forms, have chosen to both succeed and be fruitful.
Plants, as far as we know, don’t make conscious decisions about helping or hurting other parts of their environment. They simply want to live. Is that enough for you – to simply live, at any cost to your environment? Goats just want to live, but they destroyed the once verdant Greek countryside. Salmonella and ticks and viruses just want to live, too often at human expense. Do your daily choices help others to flourish – like the apple and potato? Or does your success sometimes hurt others – as with marijuana and salmonella? Perhaps your efforts simply create a beauty that has unmeasurable healing properties – like the tulip or music.
I don’t ever pretend to know what God actually wants, but I’m pretty sure that when our lives help others to flourish, then God is well served. And I do believe that choosing fruitfulness is a welcome idea in a world that could benefit from some new ways of measuring success.
(Perhaps some of you saw the 2009 PBS documentary based on Pollan’s book. I had not even heard of it until this week. Here is a preview: PBS “Botany of Desire”)
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Where I’ll be:
June 12 through August 14 – organist/choir director for the 10:00 am and 5:00 pm services at St. John’s (Norwood), 6701 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Maybe you’d like to come and sing with the Summer Choir there? 9:15 a.m. rehearsal.
July 31-August 12 – organist for Christ Church, Glendale (Ohio) during their residency at Canterbury Cathedral (U.K.)
September 4 through November 20 – organist/choir director at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church (1 Chevy Chase Circle, Washington, D.C.) while their Music Director is on sabbatical.
Save the Date: Friday, September 9 at 7:30 p.m., Let’s Dance! Music for Two Pianos (no actual dancing is involved). Sophia Vastek and Sonya Sutton play music of Manual Infante, Witold Lutoslawski, Benjamin Britten and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Contact me directly if you would like to receive an invitation.
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This blog represents my attempt to put thoughts together on various things that seem to connect – in my mind anyway. More often than not new ideas first involve reaching back to what was and I can only hope that the prehistoric San cave painting at the top of this page inspires all kinds of new connections between old and new.
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