Wikipedia has a master page for the term "Cultivation," claiming that the word can be used to refer to any of ten different concepts, ranging from tillage to animal husbandry. All of these acts of cultivation are important, and I imagine that most of them are very sophisticated. However, I'm disappointed to see one clear omission from the list: relationship-building, or, the cultivation of relationships.
Human society has at least one of its hinges in the realm of the relationship. We have relationships with our acquaintances, our coworkers, our friends, our family members, our pets, our significant others, and onward and onward. There are even special sorts of relationships that build on a higher level, like the relationships between members of a team, a friend group, or a nation. All of these relationships need to be cultivated if they're ever going to grow, to become healthy and strong.
Cultivation can be difficult. Sometimes, a frost hits, and the soil you've been tilling and keeping balanced freezes up, endangering the plants within. Other times, you give your potted magnolias a bit too much water, and they die at your very hands. When it comes to cultivation of relationships, there aren't too many almanacs that you can follow to help you along your way. Sure, there's a whole world of wisdom out there that can cut out some of the strife. But the intricacies of relationship-building are ever-shifting with the tides of time, and, especially in the case of human relationships, the subjects of our cultivation can be unpredictable or volatile.
Sometimes we get upset when people try to cultivate relationships with us through less-than-ideal methods. I'm talking about those who mean well, those who know they need to put their plant on a windowsill, but don't realize that the light coming to one sill is not at all the same as the light coming to that one, where that wilted plant should have been sitting. Every person is a little different, and we all need different nurturing to thrive in a relationship role.
As with all cultivation, patience is key. Attention and forgiveness are also important ideals. Attention, I think, is on the rise, but it's been placed on a high pedestal, and in those winds it has become a little twisted. Too little or too much attention is taken as an affront to decency, even as such marks can vary greatly from person to person. Common mistakes take on new symbolism, bathing them in blood. Forgiveness can find itself at either extreme: an overabundance or a stark lack. With the rise of social media, relationship-building can spark up lighting quick, or it can slow-cook, developing over years of pruning, as with the bonsai. We need to develop our patience on many different theaters, an internal cultivation of skill, in order to cultivate relationships as best we can. Even after we ourselves have strengthened our modes of patience, attention, and forgiveness, we are always reliant on the other sides to our relationships to follow suit.
Perhaps in the coming weeks I shall delve further into some of the kinds of relationship cultivation common to us humans. For now, I leave you with a few questions to ponder: Are you content with your interactions with fellow beings? Do you take the time to fortify the bonds between you and your friends, your cousins, your peers? How much are you giving in your relationships, and how much good are you receiving in return?