When I was a kid, I liked the song about tumbleweeds. When I saw tumbling tumbleweeds in movies and on television, I thought they were cool. Instead of staying in one place like most plants, they got to move around, to go places, and that seemed like a good idea.
Now that I am an adult and I live in Nevada, I know better. First, the tumbleweed may seem to be traveling, going places, but it isn’t; it is simply being blown about by the wind with no control over where it goes. Second, the tumbleweeds don’t tumble until they are dead (according to the conventional idea of death). A living tumbleweed stays put, just like other plants.
The tumbleweed is an annual plant that pops up in the spring and grows into a somewhat globular shape quickly. It has shallow roots, but they are usually deep enough to keep it in place in the spring and summer. In the fall, the plant dies and dries up. When heavy winds blow—a common occurrence in the Western states—the shallow roots may be pulled right out of the ground and the whole plant sent tumbling through the desert, or down a street. And rather than being romantic, they are annoying to those who live where they grow. They blow onto your property, get caught in your fences, and jump out in front of you while you’re driving.
Just as with the plant tumbleweeds, some think that human tumbleweeds are romantic. We think that a drifter who has no specific home, no family responsibilities, no ties to places or things is romantic, and possibly even desirable. While spiritual teachers tell us that we should not become too attached to the material: to places, things, or even other people, that doesn’t mean we should be irresponsible drifters.
Drifters are not the only human tumbleweeds. A tumbleweed that is caught in a fence is still a tumbleweed, and a human tumbleweed that has settled down in one place may still be a tumbleweed. Even a person with a regular job and a family may still be a human tumbleweed. If you have no plans for your life, you are a tumbleweed. If you never set goals for yourself, never seek to better yourself, never seek to make the world you live in a better place, you are a human tumbleweed. If you never bother to learn anything new once you complete your formal education, you are a human tumbleweed. If you believe everything the government and big corporations tell you and let them blow you around like the wind, you are a human tumbleweed.
So what can we do to change if we are, at least sometimes, a tumbleweed? We can start by developing an open mind. We do that by reading about religions other than our own, visiting other countries, making friends with people from different churches or political parties. We can start questioning what we are told by those who are touted as authorities when they are really just paid spokespersons. Start doing a little research before you blindly except things (it’s remarkable how many things I see getting shared on social media when a quick fact check would reveal that the story is completely false). Stop eating whatever fits in your mouth and study nutrition. Don’t assume that because you and your friends do something a certain way that it is the best way to do it. It’s smart to not fix it if it isn’t broken, but it’s dumb to refuse to make any progress at all because it’s comfortable to stay the same. Most of all, awaken and develop your spiritual faculties and let them dominate instead of your limited physical ones. Before you know it, you won’t be a tumbleweed anymore.