Why You Should Stop And Smell The Roses
I was reading this essay the other day. One of those things where you start to read this, and the more you read, the more you get interested. But then when you finish reading this you aren’t really sure what you just read. Which is why I’m having trouble remembering now the exact topic this essay. It was kind of like that. I think it was about recycling or something.
Anyway, there was a section where it was talking about how flowers are good. That some scientific studies have shown that flowers actually elevate people’s moods, creating some chemical in the brain that is associated somehow with happiness and good moods. One of those chemicals that if you could sell to people you’d make a killing. I believe it is the same chemical that is a by-product of some narcotics. But with narcotics you get all these other horrible side effects, like physical addiction. When this chemical is naturally produced, it is not nearly as strong as injecting heroin, but it doesn’t have the addictive side effects.
It reminded me of this book on evolution I was reading. I believe the author was Steven Pinker. Evolution is much more complicated than most people think (including me.) There are several different overlapping systems that benefit as they grow and mutate over successive generations into better and more successful organisms. No organism evolves on it’s own. It is always dependent on how its new mutations interact with the environment, rather just how well it can exploit he environment.
Take bees for example. They take the nectar from the flowers, and in turn spread the pollen around, so the flowers can reproduce. It is a win/win scenario. The flowers get to make more flowers, and bees get food. Now if some generation of bees evolved some more efficient way of getting nectar from flowers, but they didn’t spread the pollen, it’s success would be short lived. Say for example, instead of going from flower to flower, each bee just hit up one flower, took its nectar, and went back to the hive. Pretty soon there wouldn’t be any more flowers because they would suddenly have lost their reproductive abilities thanks to the greedy bees. So the bee’s ability to take nectar from flowers is dependent on their habit of spreading the pollen around. Of course the bee doesn’t look at itself in the mirror every morning and try to pump itself up with affirmations of how great it is to create win/win relationships. It just does its thing.
Nature is filled with examples like this. Seemingly selfish behavior that somehow benefits various different species through their interaction.
Which brings me back to the flowers. Why do they make us feel so good? Why do numerous studies show that patients in hospital rooms recover quicker when their rooms are filled with flowers?
A botanist will tell you that wild flowers often grow in conjunction with edible fruit. If not on the same plant, at the very least in the same area. The existence of wild flowers also show evidence of water being around someplace.
Some imagine a couple of different tribes of people, wandering around couple hundred thousand years ago. One group had this peculiar reaction to flowers. They liked looking at them. They liked the smell. So what happened when they were out wandering around and saw a patch of wildflowers? They went to take a closer look. And the likely saw a stream or several fruit bearing trees. What a discovery. Sweet tasting food and plenty of water.
Now consider the other wandering tribe. They didn’t particularly care one way or the other at the sight or the smell of flowers. So when they saw a patch of wildflowers, or a meadow filled with wildflowers off in the distance, they ignored it, and kept looking for something to kill. Sometimes they found something sometime they didn’t
Now which group do you think would produce more people over time? The group that had a built in response that allowed them to find free food and water? Or the group that didn’t?
They group that stopped at patches of flowers, and subsequently found more food and water that was pretty safe to eat (compared to the other group that was always running after zebras) had lots of time on their hands. And I don’t think I need to tell you what primitive people would likely decide to do when they were hanging out in a place surrounded by water, sweet food, and pretty flowers.
Make more people.
So it’s easy to see that the group that had a natural inclination to enjoy flowers, both the sight and the smell, quickly out populated the group that didn’t. It may also explain (one explanation among many I suspect) why having color vision is much better than black and white.
And just like the bees helped out the flowers by spreading their pollen, these primitive peoples helped out the fruit trees by spreading the seeds through their waste. The more people ate fruit, the more the particular tree spread.
So when you hear the old saying “stop and smell the roses,” you now know that it has much deeper meaning that just to goof off and enjoy yourself. It is proof that mother nature, God, or whoever, has equipped us with various built in strategies that make us feel good when going after something that is actually beneficial to our survival.
So go out and have some fun. Enjoy yourself. Mother Nature wants you to.