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The Rhizome Remains

“We do not know how life is going to turn out. Therefore the story has no beginning, and the end can only be vaguely hinted at. The life of man is a dubious experiment. It is a tremendous phenomenon only in numerical terms. Individually, it is so fleeting, so insufficient, that it is literally a miracle that anything can exist and develop at all. I was impressed by that fact long ago, as a young medical student, and it seemed to me miraculous that I should not have been prematurely annihilated. Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away — an ephemeral apparition.
When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures beneath the eternal flux. What we see is blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains. In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world erupted into this transitory one. That is why I speak chiefly of inner experiences, amongst which I include my dreams and visions. These form the prima materia of my scientific work.”

Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Our lifespan is but the bloom that eventually withers away, yet the rhizome remains in our spirit and the work we leave behind for others. Think of the traits we see carry from generation to generation. Think of the art and music that resonates long after the composer has withered away. We have people that stay with us for the rest of our days; we can see the twinkle in their eye, we can hear their laughter. Life is Jung’s ephemeral apparition, but as we feel of those who have transcended this world, the physical manifestation of our being isn’t all there is of us.

Our season is very short, but rooted below the surface we’re anchored to eternity. And this, when you think about it, offers a bit of hope in this ridiculous game of living. For we come and go in our season, but our rhizome remains. There’s a sense of permanence in that, as we make the most of our impermanent time in bloom. We shine in our time and offer what we might to those who carry on.

The present season, anchored to eternity

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