A Sufi holy man was asked, “What is forgiveness?” He said, “It is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.”

  • One Sufi’s Saying

I have always viewed the individuals that make up our society as a collection of candles. Inside the mind of every man, woman, and child are thin strands of consciousness bound together like interwoven cotton, forming a wick. These wicks are the idiosyncratic and cultural beliefs that guide us; they are the past experiences, thoughts, and feelings that govern our realities and establish how we see the world. Although our individual philosophies, and how we choose to interpret them may vary, they are central to who we are as human beings.

From an early age, we are taught about love and human compassion through the various fables and religious analogies that are passed down from generation to generation. And as we grow older, our physical bodies become the solid foundation of wax that surround the emotional facilities of our wicks, and allow them to burn.

But sometimes those strands of consciousness and cotton can become tainted. Prejudice, bitter experience, and extenuating circumstance can alter our beliefs, causing the flame that burns atop of our candle to flicker and fade. A terror attack against innocent people can cause our belief structure to shift away from tolerance, to wariness and fear. A failed relationship can break our heart, and cause us to treat the opposite sex in a derogatory manner as we attempt to hide our own fragility. A statistic, or series of unfortunate events can transform our perception of a racial subclass from an equal, to a violent, seemingly lawless community. And a difference in the ideals and expression of love can make some of us feel uncomfortable with the idea of a man loving another man; or with a woman falling head of heals for another woman.

When these experiences taint our wicks, our flames diminish, and the light that we shine into the lives of others fades. Regardless of whether these bigotries are developed consciously, or not; when we stereotype, judge, vilify or disparage, we cast a shadow across the lives of the people around us. When too many of us allow our flames to flicker and fade, the world around us grows dark, and becomes a very scary place.


Agh. Let’s pause for a second. That last comment sounded fucking bleak. It almost as if I’m trying to paint a dystopian world view as a way of expressing concern that too many people are being caught up in bigotry and hate. As if I am subtly suggesting that too many individuals have allowed their fires to fade, and that we’re living in a world ruled by intolerance and darkness…

Despite my candle analogy being an ideal that I have long believed in, I’m beginning to realise that I have only ever been partly correct in my thinking. For the past few months the posts on this site have been deeply introspective in nature; I have erred away from writing about the more contentious topics that occupy much of my thought processes, and focused instead on the idea of self. In doing so, I have come to realise that while there is a candle that burns in the minds of every man, woman, and child; there is also a rose garden that blooms within our hearts.

Love, tolerance, and human compassion are attributes that blossom within the souls of men and women who open their hearts to the world and risk having their rose gardens trampled; and who chose to allow the fragrance of their humbling moments to radiate and compliment their light, rather than diminish it.

Confused? You should be. It’s taken me months to come to this conclusion, and even as a write it out it still sounds like the ill-thought-out ramblings of a madman. So, let me try and explain…

I’ve said time and time again that I am a humanist. I believe in people. But I’m also a realist. I don’t believe that it is possible to live in a world without hate. The idiosyncratic nature of the individual means that we are inevitably going to find someone that we just cannot connect with. But if you are going to hate; then hate justly, and express your hate through love. Don’t hate someone because they are different, or because their views run incongruously to your own. Hate the person who diminished their own light and cast shadows into the world by attempting to destroy the rose gardens of their fellow man and woman. And love the people that they sort to hurt. Bask in the fragrance of their humanity, and show them that even in their lowest moments, they are beautiful. By doing so you can help create a world where tolerance trumps abhorrence.

If a terror attack robs the world of innocent people, don’t condemn a religion. That’s bullshit. Condemn the misguided individual who twisted their understanding of series of teachings to fuel their own rage.  Rise above their actions and use the fragrance of the flowers that they have crushed to build a world devoted to compassion. If your heart is broken; find the courage to love again. Don’t withdraw into yourself and rob the world of the flame in your mind, or the roses that bloom within your heart. And if you cannot accept that a man can love another man just as much as two members of the opposite sex can love one another, then seek him out and learn what it is that makes them so hopelessly devoted to his partner.

If you don’t, and you feel the need to vilify, disparage, or segregate based upon an individual’s beliefs, anatomical makeup, ethnicity, or the love that resides within them without seeking to understand who they are, then you are an arsehole. And you don’t deserve to shine light into their world, or to bask in the aromatic fragrance of the rose gardens your own insecurities and intolerance seeks to destroy.

People often think that in order for the world to experience love, change needs to occur on a grand scale. We turn to governments and leaders and ask them to make decisions about the rights of sub communities, or to dictate who it is that we should direct our angst towards in moments of great tragedy. But this kind of top down mentality towards human compassion and understanding is wrong. Real change comes from within us. It comes from helping to rebuild the rose gardens of those who have been hurt, and in allowing your light to illuminate the shadows caused by those who choose to stunt their own flame through anger and parochialism.

Whether we choose to accept it or not, the truth is that we are all connected. Every man, woman, and child on the face of this earth is both wonderfully unique, differently the same, and perfectly imperfect. If you struggle to accept those who you don’t understand, I implore you to open your heart and your mind, and learn how to accept rather than condemn. One of the reasons that I have always loved the analogy of a candle is the that as beautiful as its light may seem; it will burn far brighter when inverted. The same can be said for the way that many people, myself included, perceive the world around us. An inversion of thinking; acceptance as opposed to abhorrence will allow us all to burn brighter than we ever thought possible.

And if you step into the rose gardens of those who you have hurt, or who have hurt you; take a moment to breathe in the alluring fragrance of forgiveness; then help them tend to their damaged hearts, and cultivate a more tolerant world.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

53 thoughts on “Metanoia”

  1. We are the products of our natures, along with our interactions with our surrounding environments…and if we don’t consider both nature AND nurture together, then what we are becomes, incomplete.

  2. The first paragraph works well with the two paragraphs beginning, “People often think . . .” The rest of it is too “internal” (inside your own mind) for me.

  3. Well said and how fitting to lead with a Sufi quote!

    While ever there are open hearted people doing good it will balance the lost souls bent on evil.

  4. I can smell the roses in that rose garden from here… I have a personal philosophy of creating a ‘rose garden’ within my circle of influence… I may not be able to change the World but I can influence ‘my world’ by planting scented roses wherever I can… I love this post – thank you! x

  5. formed since the personality of the baby and was obtained from the mother, then the environment in the home and the environment that are outside. If we had to instill positive values in the future of our children is not easily provoked by a bad neighborhood. thank you

  6. your words are touching, chris. thank you for sharing this beautiful piece of writing. ❤

    since i was a teenager that i think of people as threads of fabric, as you explained, and that together we create the fabrics of our culture and reality. but adding to that a flame that brings light and warm to our communities, and having a garden in our hearts that need to be nurtured… it's such a loving image. 🙂

    also, that quote at the beginning: i'll make sure to treasure it and read it time and time again. so i can remember to let my fragrance go when i am crushed. i am very grateful for reading about love in these terms.

    also, thank you for visiting my blog and leaving an heart on there. if you like piano music, make sure to listen to this: {i was listening to it while reading your words and made the experience even more magical!}


  7. All, I can think of is. Who are you? where are you? What are you? . My eyes were teary, but in a good way. It felt like your words made me jerk up from my slumber. That’s some truth, beautiful truth. And the puns,wow! It was just absolutely beautiful.❤

    1. Something about your questions caught my attention, and I have spent the past few hours contemplating who, and what I am.

      The simple response to who I am, is to say that I am Chris Nicholas. The more complex, and holistic response is to say that I am a twenty eight year old writer, brother, and son.

      In a physical sense, my “where” is Brisbane, Australia. But in a psychological, emotional, or metaphysical sense, I’m still not quite sure where I am. I’m a man who has loved and lost, who has suffered through self loathing, and also experienced great happiness. I’m still searching for my place in this world, and through writing I have found a way to connect with people such as yourself, so that I can share my journey with them.

      But my answers are irrelevant here. The important responses are your own. Who are you? Where are you in life? And are you where you want to be?

      1. Well, all I have is answers and reasons dancing in my head. I can’t seem to fit them in perfectly. But then here are some I can put together. I’m just a girl, I’m not simple, I’m not complicated maybe a little complex for the world that I live in. I’m Mary Oyebanji, a 24 year old masseuse and writer, a daughter and a sister.
        I live in Lagos, Nigeria. A different world entirely, a place most people believe in trends and social status. A place where people find imitation plausible. Somewhere where you are believed to live or exist in a certain way even if it means loosing yourself.
        I have been hurt, heartbroken and displaced, and also had my own fair share of happiness. But I have learnt to keep the memories that makes me swoon with joy, dust off the dirt and keep pushing forward.
        I can’t say that I’m in a place in life where I would really want to be, because I find myself hiding and wearing a mask to people that are closest to me. And I find myself being who I am with people from a distance. Writing keeps me sane, it’s a hobby and a much bigger hobby is helping to relieve people from pain, that sense of fulfillment is what drives me. Though most people find what I do or believe in, boring. But who cares! the greatest pain is losing yourself to live like another. But I believe we’re all here in life to make a mark. It that is my goal. So I’m just a girl, just a girl who prefers sunflowers to roses.
        I leave you be… ❤ Mary Oyebanji

  8. “Tolerance trumps abhorrence” wow that’s so true. Truly beautiful thoughts and amazing articles! Hats off to your realistic thoughts and the way you put them up in your write-ups. Please keep sharing such beautiful articles

  9. Chris, I’ve been reading your blog on and off for a while now. Your willingness to confront yourself within and without, your confessions and honesty – at times so brutal that I’ve cried from the pain expressed by your words …. follows into compassion, is inspirational to me in many ways. Thank you for your chronicles and continued engagement with life.

  10. Ah, and if we fail to nurture our own rose garden, or tend to our flame, we cannot help but project ourselves. All outward action is reflective of our inner state. Or at least that is my personal conclusion. Great subject matter and well written discussion!

  11. Sticking with the candle analogy, in a vast cavern of total darkness, even a tiny light can be seen. Darkness can never defeat light, it only wins when light leaves, no matter how much of it there is.
    I totally agree we all need to be aware of it in our day to day lives. Expecting the government to step in fix it all isn’t really the answer.
    Great article as always.

  12. Chris, I appreciate your words. We cannot wait for others to change. I know I can’t change others but I can challenge my own thinking, I can learn to forgive and I can keep my focus on love. I do believe that the way I choose to live each day does have a ripple effect. We are one human race far more alike than different. Thank you for the inspiration to look at the ways we keep our candles lit and the way we impact others.

  13. You write so very well. It gives me joy to hear an “introspect” project. I was particularly delighted by your thoughts about the months you reflect to draw conclusions. I hope your get to the place in your journey where your introspection if predicated upon multiple decades of doing so. Have a great day.

  14. Thanks for sharing your transformative process and musing with all of us! They remind me of what Julie and I at think–that fiction, the writing of it and the reading of it, is what can lead humanity to this better place you describe. Art in general, really. So your words are not simply introspective musings. The act of writing itself can be, IS, radical, progressive, and transformative. –Whitney

  15. Being blind and a guide dog owner, I fall into conversation with people from all backgrounds and differing perspectives on the world. They ask me about my dog, but the conversation sometimes touches on other topics such as politics. I find people of good-will and decency across the (mainstream) political spectrum (I.E. kindness and decency are not preserves of Conservatives, Socialists or Liberals as there are individuals who I like and respect from all those parties, but I’m not divulging my own perspective/political views)! Its sad when people categorise anyone who holds an opinion which differs from their own as “selfish” or “wicked” merely because of that divergence. Someone may hold an opinion different to our own but still be a decent human being. We are all, ultimately a mixture of good and bad and there are weeds in everyone’s rose garden (although some people have more weeds than others).

  16. Wow, you’ve made a valid point and did so well. I think we often have the pressure to be perfect. Our society looks down on anyone who’s having a bad day or feeling depressed or worthless. We’ve all been there. But, like our social media profiles we have to put on a front. It’s nice when we can cut through the crap and just be honest. Honestly with ourselves and with others. I agree that in the darkest and hardest times I’ve learned about myself. I appreciate the good days more so after having experienced grief and tragedy.

    ❤️❤️❤️ this post and may link to it in the near future!

  17. This was beautiful. We must first learn acceptance in order to truly love. We let a false or programmed image of another person control our lives because of our inability to accept that person.

  18. “you can help create a world where tolerance trumps abhorrence.” Carrying love out into the world is difficult to say the least. People tend to view you as naive when you accept people for who they are and not judge them or their past. To try and focus on the good in people, point it out to them so they can help their own goodness grow within them is a chore. Some days it’s exhausting but it is the only way to make a difference. Thank you for sharing.

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