Many things have been said about weeds, and not all of them pleasant. Weeds are not considered to be our friends, and why not? What makes one plant a friend and another a foe? Making such judgments, why would not poison ivy be considered to be a weed? If you’ve ever accidentally used its leaves as toilet paper, you surely would put it in the “foe” column. And yet it still earns the lofty title of “plant.”
If we are honest, we know that weeds are aggressive, and tend to crowd out weaker, gentler plants that might–if left alone–grow flowers or nutrient-rich tuber plants. But plant such a gentle soul next to a weed patch and it is doomed to die, overrun by the ambitious tendrils of death that lie in wait. Or some of the time, they don’t wait. They simply attack and take over. Vigilance is required.
But perhaps we are being unfair to the weed. Beneath every angry aggressive maneuver a weed makes lies a seed of sadness, and if we look closely, we see that weeds are a truly sad plant. The wise person sees the weed’s desperate grabs for food, soil, and water–more than their share–as a spiritual problem, rather than a condemnable offense.
Should we take pity on the weed, then, and refuse to pull it out by the roots? No. Given the chance, a weed will overtake your garden, slip in through your back door, rip up the new tile in your bathroom, and eat all the food in your refrigerator. Understanding the weed does not make it different. The wise person plucks the weed with a long-handled instrument. And sets the weed aside and looks at it for a while.
But there is a bright side to the weed. One truth is that weeds are just like any other plant, only more successful. It is their success in the face of often harsh and unforgiving conditions–their persistence and their utter lack of purpose that draws the ire of so many. The weed may be considered to be an unstoppable force of energy that has simply misplaced its focus.
We should pull weeds. But we should not be angry at them. Weeds are a reminder and a warning. In that sense, they are our friends. Sometimes they have flowers that don’t look half bad. And they are not, for the most part, poisonous, like some of our so-called plant friends.
Should we celebrate the weed? Probably not. But we can listen to it. And hear, in its impossible persistence, a silent cry for help–who am I, what am I doing, and why?