Make sure you’re watering the right plant

It’s always the plant you water that grows. This old idea shows up in many cultures. In Native American traditions, it is the wolf you feed that lives. In modern spiritual language, it represents the law of attraction. In Christianity, it is the physics behind “Ask and you shall receive.” It’s always the plant you water that grows.

The idea itself is quite agnostic, really. A fairly dispassionate observation of basic cause-and-effect. Nourish plant, plant grows. Fail to nourish plant, plant either dies or never exists in the first place.

Where we place our attention, focus and creativity, stuff happens. That “stuff” is typically proportional to the amount of attention, focus and creativity we apply to it in the first place. The power of this can be viewed scientifically, spiritually, or, my preference, both.

Most of us can agree upon the basic premise that what we water grows. Where we might differ is in our opinion of what, if anything, is behind that premise, and how widely it applies. Meaning, is the hand of God in it as well? Do we have energetic power in our acts of prayer? If so, what if we used it a little bit more on purpose? Most importantly, how have we been using it so far?

The reason I mention this is because we are in a rare moment in human civilization. And it’s possible, thanks to social media, for a vast number of people to be thinking and praying for the same things at generally the same time. What do you suppose the long-term effect of that will be? Because we’re doing it.

I’ve always believed that what we think today will result in our experience tomorrow. That doesn’t mean happiness is guaranteed any more than tragedy is prevented. It simply determines our ability to fully enjoy the happinesses and cope with the tragedies we all inevitably face. It’s about capacity. What I think today makes me either more capable or less capable of loving, of receiving support from (and collaborating with) others tomorrow. For I am wiring my brain as I speak. And what I transmit from it is dependent on how much I am at peace. I am always transmitting something. “Is it peaceful or fearful?” should be my principal concern. Because that’s what will dictate my ability to enjoy or to cope with the future, no matter what it may bring.

Now let’s reverse-engineer our present moment. Where are we right now? We are in the middle of a global pandemic. The first of its kind in virtually any of our lives. The entire world is having an original experience together. How we have been thinking in the past is showing up in how we are now coping with the present.

Beyond our own country’s inner conflict on the subject, look at the world. Look at how the world is stepping up and facing the dilemma together. This is very revealing. And the news is good. Those who work together best are the ones who shall survive the easiest. There are many good people in this country participating in that work as well. Send your good energy to them. Send it to them and all everywhere.

Now, let’s directly address the elephant in the room. It’s really difficult in America right now. The haphazard way we are dealing with this pandemic is a symptom, however, not the problem itself. It’s a symptom of our desire for systematic change and the resistance to change that the system is exhibiting in response. We’ve begun to realize a few things, and the old system doesn’t like it. And so when the old system is tested, it fails. A recalibration is always next. It’s natural, and it ain’t easy.

We now, many of us, know the plants we’ve been watering are no longer nourishing us. And we find that perhaps they never were. This is a shock. But I know the American people will prevail, because this country actually belongs to us all. Even if some would prefer to think otherwise. The irony is, the new system is stacked more greatly against them than those on the loving side of history. If that weren’t so, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to make things go back to the way they were before.

Evolution is natural. And humanity appears to be evolving toward love, not away from it. That’s why we see the conflict we are seeing. That’s the evidence of what plant is really being watered here. Take stock of what the underlying arguments really are. It could easily be seen as a metaphor of the battle of light and dark. The dark would like you to believe that it has equal power to light, or even greater. But it has no power at all of its own. A single candle will banish it utterly from a room. And darkness itself has no power over it. Except for what it has convinced you it has.

Returning to the global view, in the past, one might have imagined humanity one day reaching a certain saturation point in the population on this planet where our fear of limited resources outweighs our humanity. One could also certainly imagine that being the case this very minute. And to the degree it makes marketable news, the stories of that are front and center, yes. But they are not, statistically, the most prevalent. There’s far more collaboration and compassion occurring in the world than the exercise of greed. More now than has ever been the case, in fact. That was statistically demonstrable even before the pandemic. Humanity has been on the right track toward becoming a peaceful society for a long time now. These are big systems we are insisting make changes. Be patient, but firm.

I recognize that it’s a stretch for some people to believe that humanity is suffering because it’s succeeding. I’m an optimist, admittedly. But I also think I’m correct. And I think there’s evidence to conclude we have been doing a lot of the right things. You can always tell what path you’re on by who you piss off. And in my view, it’s always important to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Looking at the timeline of human history, we are incrementally getting it. That is the reason we are struggling so right now. There is more light in the world than there used to be. And it has had an effect.

Now we should conclude to use it purposefully. For if we return to our original idea that it’s always the plant you water that grows, exactly what is growing for us right now? What seeds have we been watering so fervently that they should blossom into this wide-spectrum experience we’re collectively having? And, as scary as it is at this moment, will the eventual outcome have any value for humanity? Is there benevolence here? What are we adding to the slingshot of this experience with our own thoughts, prayers, attention and creativity? What are you adding to it with these? What’s going on in your head these days?

What plant are you watering right now?

Wil Darcangelo, M.Div., is the minister at First Parish UU Church of Fitchburg and First Church of Christ Unitarian in Lancaster, and producer of The UU Virtual Church of Fitchburg and Lancaster on YouTube. Email Follow him on Twitter @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at


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