A Proverb on the Self-Sufficient Laborer

One flower doesn’t bring spring.

Regional Oral Tradition

This proverb is spoken to the person who tries to accomplish too much on his own. Such a laborer is under a delusion that his isolated efforts can bring about the needed results. But just as one flower cannot by its own appearing bring about spring, humans cannot truly achieve great and meaningful things without a community supporting them and laboring alongside them.

It is a proverb quite appropriate for Westerners, who fall into this self-sufficient way of thinking far more than those from Central Asia. But ultimately every culture must face the short-sighted nature of individualistic labor. We are simply not strong nor talented enough to effect great change on our own. And those who cut ties with others, charging off into the world to do great things by themself will one day realize they have simply run out of fuel. I’m reminded of the English proverb, “many hands make light work” and the popular African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together.” The Preacher of Ecclesiastes writes on this same theme, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

It is not good for us to be alone. Not even in our labor.

Photo by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

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