The rice planter’s mistake
In China, there is a story told about a husband and wife who are rice farmers. They have just finished planting the crop. The husband, though, is not content just waiting for the crop to grow. He wants to do more; he thinks he can do more. This worries his wife. Even when the shoot have become ankle high, the husband is still edgy, still convinced there is something more he can do to make the rice crop grow faster and better.
One morning the wife wakes up to find her husband out of the house. She looks for him out in the rice paddy, and there he is surrounded by the shoots of rice that he has pulled up in his attempt to make them grow faster. “What have you done!” she yells….
A few years ago I attended a wedding in a small Catholic church in Northern Illinois. Lush cornfields grew right up to the church grounds. The church was ornate and filled with icons, all a bit crude. Wandering around the church grounds after the wedding, I thought about the generations of farmers, going back through the ages who planted their crops, then came to temples that probably weren’t terribly different from this little church, and prayed to a god, or more likely a goddess, that their crop would prosper.
These prayers probably did nothing to help the crops grow, but at least they may have helped prevent the mistake of the rice planter. When faced with a situation where we are in fact rather powerless, such as making plants grow, we have a tendency to want to do something. In such cases, petitionary prayer may be just the right type of activity. It feels like doing something (particularly if one is a believer), it hurts nothing, and it can prevent us from trying to do something that may actually make matters worse.
Investing in prayer?
Investing in the stock marker has something of the same character as planting a crop. Day to day there is little you can do to make your investments grow. The evidence shows that the best overall strategy is to invest in a widely diversified portfolio of stocks, and then for the most part leave it alone and let time work its compounding magic; yet the desire to do something is strong.
Throughout America there are people sitting at computers restlessly moving their investments around, or becoming day traders, in the hope of increasing their wealth. Statistically, this restless activity in the long run will likely be as successful as the rice farmer’s strategy of pulling at his plants to make them grow faster (for companies like E-Trade, though, all this investor restlessness is a very sure source of revenue).
So with these considerations, here is my investment advice: after investing your money, when you start getting restless about it — when the media starts to spout its endless speculations about this going up and that going down — instead of moving your investments around, pray to your favorite God, Goddess or Saint for their divine assistance in helping your investment grow and prosper. At its least, this strategy may keep you from doing something stupid, like the rice farmer did. At its best, such prayer may plant a little seed of timelessness inside your soul, which might also experience compounding magic and with time grow into something more precious than any stock portfolio.
Thomas Schenk: “If asked, I’d call myself a Space-age Taoist, Black Sheep Catholic, Perennial Philosophy Pantheist, Dharma Bum. In other words I am a kind of spiritual and philosophical mutt. I’m not out to change the world, for I believe the world has a much better sense of what it is supposed to be than I ever could. But I do try to promote the value of the contemplative life in these most un-contemplative of times. I don’t know if the piece presented here has any value, but I feel blessed that I can spend my time thinking about such things. My version of the American dream is that here, as the child of a line of farmers and peasants going back through the ages, I have the privilege to live with my head in such clouds.”
Thomas is also the author of the naturalistic spirituality blog Golden Hive of the Invisible.
Check out Thomas’ other articles:
- The mystery of being
- Bicycle meditation
- Encounters with the Goddess?
- Seton sitting: Something special may happen
- Matter thinking over mind
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Appearing Sunday, August 25th, 2013