The Soul of the Rose. 🌹John William Waterhouse. Wikimedia Commons.
🎵“You got to Stop and Smell the roses 🎵
🎶You’ve got to count your many blessings everyday 🎵
🎵You’re gonna find your way to heaven is a rough and rocky road 🎶
🎶If you don’t Stop and Smell the roses along the way.”🎶
(Songwriters: Carl Severinsen / Mac Davis.Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)
Many years ago, at the funeral of a dear old friend, James, we listened to the funeral celebrant read out James’ wishes for us all.
As a final message to his friends and family, he urged us to ‘Stop and Smell the Roses!’ and, touchingly, Cleo Laine’s version was played at the funeral service. Listen to the words she sings. Listen now to James’ message through this moving song.
He had so enjoyed his long life, taking pleasure from all that the world had to offer.
His words have stayed with me. It is not always easy to live by that message. I want to spread his words and to expand on them and discover their full meaning.
What Does ‘Smelling the Roses’ Mean?
If we literally ‘smell the roses’ we have to pause, bend down or reach up and take in their unique and sweet scent. It is the pausing, or stopping, that is important. Metaphorically, we may see this phrase as referring to our need to relax, take time out, appreciate our surroundings, relish the moments we have to fully enjoy our life.
The original song was written by Matt Davis, but he included the band-leader, Severinson, as a co-writer, as it was Severinson’s doctor who originally gave him the phrase. It was obviously meant as a health warning to a busy man.
Look around you now, there may not be any roses left; but the trees are slowly turning red-gold. There is the beauty of October to experience.
‘Autumn is a second Spring , when every leaf is a flower.’ Camus.
In other words, there is always some beauty in our lives, whatever the season.
Perhaps now, in the twenty-first century, we might need, more than ever, to heed the message of this post. So often, there is not enough time to do everything; we rush around busily all day, eat meals quickly, rarely focus on anything that demands concentration.
In order to accommodate our busy-ness, there is fast food, fast broadband, superfast broadband, fast-track, fast lane, quick-fix, speed-dial, high-speed, speed-addiction, speed-reading, multi-tasking and so on.
Never mind taking time to smell roses, often we barely stop to take a breath.
Of course sometimes we need to work quickly, keep deadlines, meet targets.
Yet we also need to make more time, time to think, to reflect, to be creative. With all the pressure of modern technology and the general speed of contemporary life, finding such reflection time might prove difficult.
The ‘sensory overload’ resulting from all this technology, the visual and auditory bombardment and distraction from all sides, mean that we have scant opportunity to attain ‘the peace of solitude.’(Storr,1998)
In her book Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster – and Overcoming Our Fear of Slowing Down, Dr Stephanie Brown explores the addictive aspects of speed in our society.
Dr Brown says that
“What is supposed to help is hurting us. What is supposed to be free ends up enslaving us. That’s the paradox of addiction. Whatever the lure, is seems so good, so positive, so helpful and so harmless. And then we’re hooked.
“So is society. Caught is a frenzied spiral of new addiction, people are chasing money, power, success and a wilder, faster pace of life. Just like any addiction, people are out of control in their behaviours, feeling and thinking, yet they believe they are normal.”
Constantly maintaining such a pace can be detrimental to our mental and physical health. Stress-related illnesses and disorders, such as heart problems, anxiety, weight-related issues, depression, addictions, attention deficit disorder are on the increase.
Nicholas Carr, in his book about the internet’s power to alter the way we think, feels that, as a result of using the Internet, his own mind is becoming less focussed and he now thinks and reads differently.
“…media aren’t just channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away at my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
Thus speed has altered our learning and thinking processes. Now we often develop Ways of Thinking that are superficial, speedily gleaned from screens as we scan for the salient points. This contrasts with a more concentrated manner of learning, deep study of a text, leading to a more focussed understanding.
Let us return to the rose. Instead of rushing past it, or not noticing it, what will happen if we really examine this beautiful flower in a deeper way?
Although we cannot smell these photographed flowers, we can imagine their amazing scent. We can feel their softness, their silky texture. We can marvel at their form, the whorls of petals, tight or unfolding, neatly arranged by Nature’s miraculous hand.
As they begin to open, what appears is a kind of cup and saucer shape, with the outer petals forming a saucer around the inner.
When they are fully open, we can glimpse the stamen, the stigma, the pistil, the pollen, at the very centre of the rose’s structure, offering itself up to the bees.
What would happen if we allowed ourselves to look more deeply into life and its beauteous offerings? What would happen if we stopped and smelt the roses?