The joy of caring for something.
Today, I moved my eight oak saplings into the full sun, added a new layer of quality compost to their pots, and watered them. In their second year of life these oak saplings prosper because of care.
Caring for something means one must pay attention to the small details. For instance, I remove the caterpillars from the oak leaves, and the weeds that grow in the pots. If I did not concentrate on the small details, the little problems could grow into larger problems, the caterpillars destroying the oak saplings, the weeds stealing their nutrients in the pots.
Also, the individual spends time on the thing cared about, establishing regular activities, such as in my case, watering the oak saplings every few days. The individual looks for ways that the cared for thing might benefit, just as I moved my oak saplings into the full sun, added new compost to them, and infected them with a type of symbiotic fungus that aids oak sapling growth.
The thing cared for becomes special, for instance there are millions of oak trees in Britain, but only eight of those, my saplings, are special to me. In such a caring relationship, both sides come to depend upon the other. My oak saplings need my care and attention to survive, I need my oak saplings to feel good about myself when life is hard.
If the individual has nothing to care for, their life becomes empty and meaningless. I love the book by Antoine De Saint-Exupery called The Little Prince, which explores ideas around friendship and caring for things. In The Little Prince is the following beautiful quote:
“You are beautiful, but you are empty. One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you — the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars; because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.”