Consider a well-known truth that never appears to be fully understood, does a man sow thistles and reap strawberries? Leo J. Muir’s book, “Flashes from the Eternal Semaphore,” lists this as the fifth semaphore, and of the six semaphores, this one is probably my favorite to discuss. Not because I am sowing rocks and reaping corn and beans, but because I often sow rancid vegetables and reap garbage, then wonder why I cannot improve my harvest. As the writings on flash four stated, “Thy speech betrayeth thee,” I am a slow learned and generally only really grasp things after experiencing some consequences that would kill others. As we discuss the Law of the Harvest, please note I am not here to convince or convert, merely to help myself. If you find value in this topic, join me, teach me, that we may both then learn more perfectly.
The law of the harvest is straightforward; many farmers know this law cold, “You reap what you sow.” If you sow lima beans, you do not raise grapes. If you are sowing carrots, you cannot harvest apples. No matter how many times you plant them, Cheerios do not sprout a doughnut tree; I know as I planted a LOT of Cheerios. Bubble gum, when planted, never grows into a bubble gum tree; my mother lied!
Yet, with this mindset, many people, myself included, become depressed, disconnected from reality, and mentally unstable. Thinking, oh, I can sow gossip and truth, and equity and justice will be shown to me. I can tell lies, cheat, steal, then become rich, famous, and never have any negative consequences. I can take and plant some cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, etc., in my body and remain healthy, strong, active, and never suffer mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. The law of the harvest doesn’t work like this, yet, this remains the greatest living lie.
From the eternal semaphore comes the following:
“Be NOT Deceived! [emphasis mine]”
Now, consider how many people drink alcohol and expect not to suffer a hangover. Consider the people consuming vast amounts of sugar, in all its various forms, who think they will never suffer diabetes, become overweight, or suffer any consequences from all that sugar. My aunt is a great woman, fantastic artist, amazingly kind and generous person, and a chocoholic. She never thought about the consequences of consuming chocolate because the research shows chocolate is healthy; she never could overcome the mental illness she suffered from that the chocolate was a comforting influence. Her family mourns her passing!
The law of the harvest is a stern warning and an incredible promise.
“He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
The pattern is evident for those struggling who sow goodness, kindness, and happiness. Hold on; your harvest WILL come, and it will be glorious. In the same breath, those sowing hate, envy, strife, malice, greed, and so much more, your harvest is also coming, and I feel awful for what your harvest will be. For the law of the harvest comes with a profound sentiment:
“God will not be mocked.”
I promise, there is a God, an atonement IS available through His Son, and the Holy Ghost is real and powerful. The enclosed sentiment in the Law of the Harvest remains my comfort when harvesting the bitter fruits my heart grows. Yes, many times, I quake for the thought that I desperately need to find a way to raise a better crop on the stony ground of my heart. Long have I prayed for a change of heart, for a line from Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” rings forever in my mind:
“The soil of a man’s heart is stony ground. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ‘Cause, what you buy is what you own. And what you own… always comes home to you.”
If you get nothing more out of this flash than the need to change fertilizers and seeds, all with an eye to improving your harvest, I have accomplished my goal. Confucius is quoted as saying, “Our headstrong passions shut the doors of our souls against God.” What great counsel, our passions are the seeds, the consequences are the fruit, and the law of the harvest governs whether we will have a harvest to enjoy or curse, and we choose how to value that harvest.
Bear with me a moment; I might have lost a few of you. Let me explain. As a kid, we often had gardens, and I was regularly on the working end of a hoe killing weeds. I cursed those weeds; I despised every second I wielded that hoe in the garden. My cherub-like demeanor was nowhere to be found working those garden rows! Then came the endless days of harvesting, canning, storing, and eating that which could not be stored; I still was NOT a happy person. Ever eat zucchini for weeks on end because that horrible stuff reproduces like rabbits in perpetual heat whose water is full of Viagra?
That is the point; when the harvest comes, and a harvest always comes, we choose how we value that which is being harvested. My father tried hard to teach me this lesson, but all I ever saw were the endless hours sweating in a kitchen preparing jars for canning, the blisters from hoeing the weeds, and the time spent doing that which we would eventually purchase in cans as winter dragged on and on. I could not see any value in gardening, so the blessings of the harvest were lost on me. Headstrong passions blinded my eyes to the blessings of the harvest, and I cursed the day I was conceived. Confucius is correct, and I have witnessed the problems with headstrong passions interfering with the Law of the Harvest many times since.
I am also experiencing the truth from Cicero:
“A youth of sensuality and intemperance delivers over to old age a worn-out body.”
I would add, an intemperate youth also yields a worn-out mind! Having observed this as a youth, I thought I could escape the problems of being intemperate, and I can honestly proclaim, I was wrong! Since my youth, I lifted objects heavier than practical; I gloried in the strength of my body and pushed it to the absolute limit many times. What am I reaping; I was disabled by the time I was 30. I am now older but not wiser. I still want to push my boundaries without regard for consequences and wind up on the floor, in hospital, or mentally unable to think properly for weeks on end. As a kid, when my parents were told of one of their kids being punished (a not infrequent occurrence), they regularly said, “Well, he brought that on himself.” To quote Ray Stevens, “Yeah, I Did!” I did bring on myself the harvest of intemperance and am delivering a worn-out body and mind to old-age. There are lots of seeds we plant and many different types of harvests we reap. When valuing the harvest, choose wisely how you evaluate the crop.
Pliny, more famously known as Gaius Plinius Secundus, also known as Pliny, the Elder,” was a Roman author, naturalist, philosopher, and naval and army commander. He is quoted as saying:
“Lust is an enemy to the purse, a foe to the person, [a] canker to the mind, a corrosive to the conscience, a weakness of the wit, a besotter of the senses, and finally a mortal bane to all of the body.”
Lust is regularly only thought of as an intense sexual desire. This type of lust definitely fits what Pliny is warning about; however, lust is also an overwhelming craving, unassailable desire, and intense eagerness or enthusiasm. Yet, many might not fully grasp the semaphore Pliny is flashing; Henry Wordsworth Longfellow might be easier to understand:
“The blossoms of passion, gay and luxuriant flowers, are bright and full of fragrance, but they beguile us and lead us astray, and their odor is deadly.”
Henry Giles and John Howe are both flashing the same message, trying to capture our attention and teach the same lesson:
“The passions are at once tempters and chastisers. As tempters, they come with garlands of flowers on brows of youth; as chastisers, they appear with wreaths of snakes on the forehead of deformity. They are angels of light in their delusions; they are fiends of torment in their afflictions.”
“Sensual delights soon end in loathing, quickly bring a glutting surfeit, and degenerate into torment.”
What do you regret from your youth as the first tastes of passion’s deadly fruits? Let me speak plainer; of course, you remember your first time in love, the rush of passions start, and the heartbreak of closure. Do you see the seeds of passion and the harvested fruits as beneficial or deadly? I know my answers to this question and understand more fully why modesty, chastity, and virtue are to be honored, respected, and cherished. You choose how you evaluate your experiences.
I currently work with a person who curses their ex-wife in the vilest language imaginable, yet, they praise their child in the same breath and bless the day they came into their life. What seeds are being planted in the child, the co-workers, and society? Will the bitter fruit be understood and evaluated as good? Time will tell. Byron summed this semaphore perfectly:
“Vice digs her own voluptuous tomb.”
Of all the advice given, I wish I had observed the following more perfectly, and while I do not know the author, many have semaphored the following message in one form or another:
“Shun the obscene!”
A long time back, exactly when escaped me, I watched a comedian who told some off-color stories for the audience’s amusement. Those seeds bore some of the most pernicious weeds in my mind, choking out life and pleasure, goodness, and all things clean and kind. Killing those weeds is a constant exercise, some would classify as futile. But, I have chosen differently and fought those weeds desiring something better, and the fight continues. I do not find swearing, debauchery, lewdness, immorality, perversion, and such amusing anymore. When I came to myself, I cleaned out a LOT of entertainment, removing books, magazines, music, movies, and more in an effort to cling to the good and shun the obscene. I had to re-learn lessons from childhood.
Now I look back on those mistakes, those seeds planted carelessly, and the bitter and thorny weeds I now fight and wish I could help others understand the same lesson I learned. Not shunning the obscene leads to problems immeasurable. In the US Navy, I had a good acquaintance who went to a party, was slipped a mickey, and woke up having been raped by another female. I counseled my friend to report this event and get tested. My friend declined because she “did not know if she liked it or not.” I mourned my friend that day and many days after as she experienced what happened after not shunning the obscene. Before she revealed her true self, her rapist was a person I respected and who was removed from military service for other actions. But the crime of rape went unreported, a sad commentary indeed! John Howe was absolutely correct:
“Sensual delights soon end in loathing, quickly bring a glutting surfeit, and degenerate into torment.”
My friend’s experience in the US Navy always brings a poem to mind courtesy of Alexander Pope:
“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
as to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
The truth of the matter remains permanently etched upon our souls or consciousness, “You reap what you sow.” We inherently know this truth, and then become sidetracked by temptation, which comes in the forms of misery, depression, beauty, emotions, and more; wrapped in shiny foil, the fruit inside is always bitter, but the first bite is a temptation that over time becomes that which we would have died to avoid. Robert Southey, the English poet, semaphored this message thusly:
“They who engage in iniquitous designs deceive themselves into thinking that they will go so far and no farther. One fault begets another; one crime makes another necessary. Thus downward they go into the depths of guilt, which at the commencement of their career they would have died rather than incurred.”
Can you relate to your experiences with planting and harvesting? What are you teaching and semaphoring? Dr. Johnson adds a comment worth remembering: “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” While Dr. Johnson is correct, there is a “Balm in Gilead,” there are chain cutters available through repentance and a path back. There is a reason to hope! Not speaking religiously, nor am I here to convert anyone to any religious flavor, merely to alert those needing it that there is a way to clean your mind and heart, that your future may produce a better harvest. Even if you might have to harvest garbage for a while as the ground cleans itself of the impurities dumped into it. Mr. Muir quotes Simons, a reference unknown, regarding the path:
“Impure thoughts awaken impure feelings, lead to impure expressions, and beget impure actions, and these lead to imbecility both of body and of mind, and to the ruin of all that is noble and pure in character.”
We who have survived youthful transgressions understand this path perfectly. Note, we live in an age of severe iconoclasm, where every day, we are bombarded by attacks on established beliefs by institutions built for the sole purpose of tearing down others. Who cannot replace their depravity and destruction with anything wholesome, good, pure, or worthwhile. Where beliefs of religion, societal norms, and institutions representing the living and breathing were destroyed for the wanton pleasure of the iconoclasts. The age of the iconoclasts began with the 1960s, and nothing built since is worth the pain and suffering we are experiencing now. Worse, those iconoclasts from the 1960s are now teachers and professors, elected leaders, and their legacy of destruction stares them in the face while they laugh and take pleasure at your suffering.
With each successive generation of iconoclastic behavior, the succeeding generations are a factor of 10 worse than their parents. Think of how many generations have come and multiplied this abhorrent behavior into society. Is it any wonder as a society we are in the mess we are in, where criminals get off, the victims are repeatedly punished, good is heralded as evil and evil for good. But, I promise there is a “Balm in Gilead,” there is a path forward that leads back to life, growth, happiness, goodness, and a morally upright society. Shunning the obscene is the first step!
We must be the generation that begins the repair job from the iconoclast’s destruction. The ravages inflicted upon us will require re-learning, embracing hope, building faith, and acting charitably through faith and hope to act charitably first to ourselves, then to our families and friends, and then to the broader societies we all live in. Whether you embrace a religious community or not, the imperative to “Shun the obscene:” the need to sow better crops to reap a more desirable harvest valued by others is universal. Not to create fervor and fanaticism, but to create a people dedicated to improving ourselves and after improving ourselves to improve the world around us.
May we all enjoy a better harvest is my hope!
© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images. Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.