Shakespeare immortalised the beauty of a woman in his sonnet: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Over 400 years later her beauty lives on. How would you immortalise the memory of your loved one? The answer is probably not hard to find, partly because emotional memory - good or bad - is reported to have a longer lasting impact than normal memory. We are also likely to immortalise or remember those we dislike. The degree of disliking grows with each additional negative thought we hold about them. To tone down such an impact, we can try perceiving not-so-likable people differently. Bring out creativity and fun in us, bring out the poet and compare them to... a tree! What tree would they be?
Trees differ in types, shapes, sizes, heights, flowers and fruits they produce, like humans. Their barks also have varying degrees of shapes and colours - all are beautiful in their own way. Their trunks, through the ages, may develop knobs and cracks, or their barks may peel off - just like ageing skin. Of all these trees, which one is likely to catch your attention most? A striking coloured one, a pretty one, a plain one, an unusual one, a crooked one, a morphed one like a bonsai? Or a devilish one - with striking colours and beautiful flowers, so charismatic that we fall for its charms and are poisoned?
We may build up a person we dislike to be the ugliest tree ever sprouted but we must admit that there is a natural charm in a strange-looking tree, is there not? But can we spot it? Not seeing beyond the outer appearance or personality, we form a negative judgement and perception towards it. As years go by, we create a rigid mindset and write it off. But if we take time to look at it, we might discover its hidden beauty, learn to like it, even be friends with it and work/live alongside it in harmony.
Allowing what we dislike about them into our mind and the mind will be contaminated. Stress hormones are released, affecting our internal organs, blood flow, breathing - to name but a few. We thus create the enemy from within - with our thoughts and perceptions. And we create an enemy from without - through our negative communications with the person we don't like!
If a tree is not good enough, there are ways to improve it. We can prune it, fertilise it, relocate it so that it will get more sunshine or more water. Mango trees can be transformed by attaching stronger, healthier and better breeds to them - to make a hybrid tree which is, say, sweeter. As for a person, we may be unable to change them but we may be able to influence, motivate, inspire or charm them - and thereby make them sweeter! This begins with changing our attitudes towards them.
Looking at things this way, it will be harder to dislike someone, because the more unusual, or the more unattractive, the more mysterious and interesting they are. The more we look at them, the more we learn to appreciate them for what they are. As for a tree or a shrub, we often plant them in our garden simply because they are unique and different from the rest.
The key to understanding things and people lies within nature. Why else would the weather be compared to changing emotions, troublesome love to being 'on the rock,' happiness to sunshine, and seasonal changes to various stages of life. To understand nature thoroughly, we need to apply it to our daily life so that we will begin to see things according to reality. If we turn those people into strange looking trees, how would that leave us? Let's be fair!
It is said that we should strive to be kind like a tree that offers shelter, food, logs or oxygen without asking for anything in return. A fallen tree that continues to grow horizontally, motivates passers-by to strive harder to succeed and to live the life that others will remember them by. Even a dead tree can serve as a frame for children to climb on, a bench for us to sit down on, a home for fungi, insects or small animals, a raw material for a piece of furniture. Can our generosity be as great and our legacy as useful as those trees, given that the kindness most of us find difficult to give is forgiveness?
Next time you dislike someone, try comparing them to a tree. Have fun and laugh at your own creativity, rather than brood. Neutralise the strong sensation of disliking towards others so you don't have to keep them in your memory. And if there is animosity on their side, your mind remains clear and at peace.