The Fallen Petals

A Japanese poem goes something like “It often becomes windy and rainy after flowers blossom.”. In the past 2 days a large number of cherry blossom petals have been blown away by the wind and rain in my office neighborhood nearby Meguro River.

Cherry Blossoms are celebrated not only for the beauty but also the transient nature, short time that they bloom,  only for a week before they wither away. Philosophically it is equated with various life’s experiences too. In personal life or professional we always experience that everything is sacred for a limited time, comes with an expiry date. In India my home country, we return even gods (Ganesha and Durga) back to the water after ten days of worship.

Sakura/Cherry Trees are similar, the trees become sacred ONLY for a week in spring. The flowers fall in water and are washed away and the trees are again “normal” for the rest of the year. The petals collect over the water surface and we went to take a few snaps at the Meguro River to see the “fallen” petals. We were surprised to see the speed of the flow of the river carry along with it a huge mass of Sakura petals which had fallen on the water surface.
Sakura Petals on Meguro RiverThe mass collects at various points of the river and the contrast of “no crowds” to watch the fallen” flowers who had been a darling of all just a week ago. We were reminded of Steve Jobs quote at the Stanford Commencement address

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

Sakura exemplifies that basic context of life every year for us. Crowds should actually gather when the petals fall off too as they do when they look pretty on the trees. Silent lessons of Japan.
Meguro River Cherry blossom petals fall on sidewalks and in the river tooThe ex-Prime Minister of Japan Mr Junichiro Koizumi was asked a “WHY” on his resignation from the PM post at the height oh his popularity. He replied

Fleeting nature of the blossoms is the reason why Japanese like Cherry Blossoms. Move on when you are at your best and don’t linger around too long. In Japanese  散りぬべき 時知りてこそ 世の中の 花も花なれ 人も人なれ 大意は、桜も人も散るべき時を知っているからこそ桜であり人なのです。これが世の習いなのです。

We absolutely agree. Short and Sweet that is the message which comes from Cherry Blossoms. We should tell this to politicians and bureaucrats in the world who just keep going on, not willing to move on. Delicate petals in my hand as I walked along the Meguro River side walk-wayMeguro River Cherry blossom petals fall on sidewalks and in the river tooThe impact of fallen flowers is very deep in the Japanese psyche. During World War II, the cherry blossoms were used as a paradigm to motivate Japanese in various forms. They were used by Japanese pilots would paint them on the sides of their planes before embarking on a suicide mission, or even take branches of the trees with them on their missions. A cherry blossom painted on the side of the bomber symbolized the intensity and ephemeral nature of life. Falling cherry petals came to represent the sacrifice of youth in suicide missions to honor the emperor.
Meguro River Cherry blossom petals fall on sidewalks and in the river tooIn today’s age of peace in Japan, blossoms have taken a different meaning which is more about social gatherings and garden picnics. This year was a “cloudy” and “gloomy” affair with the skies mostly overcast and the season is already over. The petals on the river surface at Meguro as below have washed away and still waters remain.
Sakura Petals fallen in Meguro RiverThe withering of the blossom is a lesson of life for me personally. It is a reminder that the weather will go in cycles, the seasons will change and spring will return again next year when the Cherry Trees will become sought after and “sacred” once again.
The same cycle continues in life when depending on a context a particular company, unit or an individual becomes important at a particular time and becomes a darling of the market. When the utility value has diminished, the role withers away. Market conditions are cyclical and context / conditions again return and the the same company, unit or individual will again become a sought after entity and become sacred once again.
The India philosophy is similar where Ganesha or the elephant god is invoked every August in Maharashtra or the goddesses Durga in Kolkata, when they becomes the focal point of all activity for 10 days before they are immersed back to the waters of rivers or oceans. India and Japan share similar ideas and Sakura is just one connecting point of the many.
Sakura "fallen" Petals at our feet


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