The Conversation

The AWB Blog
13 Mar 2017

Our Connectedness: Consider the Rose

The Art of Wellbeing uses experiences in art and nature to inspire new habits of healing and wholeness and to create new standards and practices of wellbeing. As we learned in our last blog rich experiences in art and nature allow us to better see how our needs are connected, i.e. the architecture of our wholeness, our wellbeing. The experiences that illuminate that connectedness are when we feel most alive, most in the flow, most spiritual. In the next few blogs we will discuss those connections using examples in fine and practical arts and nature. We will also discuss what we are learning in science (particularly in the field of epigenetics) about how we interact with the relationships in our environment.

In this blog post we will “consider the rose.”  We’ll touch on a variety of ways in which the flower’s “beauty” can be seen or made useful. Our intention is to sharpen our perception of something as mundane as a rose. In so doing we hope to show how it contributes in so many ways to our wellbeing. Learning to expand our ability to perceive is at the core of The Art of Wellbeing.

In our next blog we will discuss what science is teaching about the role epigenetics plays in our wellbeing.

A Rose is a Rose

There are many ways to perceive and appreciate the beauty of a rose.  Most of us are simply attracted to its natural, physical beauty: its rich color and fragrant scent, its delicacy and texture…even its thorns. These particular characteristics have delighted humans through the ages.

A Rose is Story of Science

Another appreciation might be scientific.  We could marvel that the rose is a product of photosynthesis:  the interaction of light, water, carbon dioxide, and other elements.  Richard Feynman sees a rose’s physical allure, but with the perception of a theoretical physicist, he also sees an enhancing beauty of connectedness in its intricate and fascinating natural processes.

A Rose is a Story of Fact

We might also know that this particular rose is the result of Aunt Bea’s hard work and attention. Her protection.  Her cultivation.  Her nurturing.

A Rose is a Story of Metaphor

Understanding Aunt Bea’s hard work and knowing that she is sometimes “a piece of work,” prickly and difficult, we might connect the stories of the Rose and Bea and imagine that if Aunt Bea had been cultivated more, protected…nurtured, her thorniness might have been easier to accept and her beauty, like the rose, more evident.

A Rose is a Symbol of Culture…

Over time the rose has been imbued with many shades of meaning. Petals came to represent emotions and virtues like love, honor, faith and beauty. Thorns became suffering, sacrifice, imperfection.  This symbolism continues to connect us and our environment over time and place.

…In Myth

Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" - Note Venus is receiving a mantle embroidered with myrtle and roses from Public Domain Photo of Rose from

Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” – Note Venus is receiving a mantle embroidered with myrtle and roses from Public Domain Photo of Rose from

The ancient Greeks and Romans identified the rose with the goddess of love, Aphrodite (Greek name) and Venus (Roman name).

In Rome a wild rose would be placed on the door of a room where secret or confidential matters were discussed. The phrase sub rosa, or “under the rose”, means to keep a secret — derived from this ancient Roman practice.

…In Religion

Binding of a Divan of the poet Hafiz (1842, Iran) from Public Domain image at Wikimedia Commons

Binding of a Divan of the Persian poet & mystic Hafez (died c. 1390). Original lacquer flower-nightingale motif decorative frame (1842, Iran)

The metaphorical relationship of the nightingale (active lover) and flower (passive beloved) is frequently utilized in Persian poetry, especially by Hafez who describes the beauty of the rose that provokes the longing song of the nightingale.

Interior Rose window in the cathedral of Strasbourg, France - copy in Public Domain from Wikimedia

Interior Rose window in the cathedral of Strasbourg, France

Medieval Christians identified the five petals of the rose with the five wounds of Christ. Roses also later came to be associated with the Virgin Mary. The red rose was eventually adopted as a symbol of the blood of the Christian martyrs. A bouquet of red roses, often used to show love, is used as aValentine’s Day gift in many countries.

…In the Fine Arts


In Romeo and Juliet (1600) Shakespeare uses the rose, through the voice of Juliet, to express that what matters is what something is, not what it is called.

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.


In Robert Burns‘ poem “A Red, Red Rose,” the poet compares his love to a new red rose, bringing to mind new love—a newness of a relationship, and the delight of romance when everything is fresh and exciting:

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Luve
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

When asked for the source of his greatest creative inspiration, American singer songwriter Bob Dylan selected Burns’ 1794 song A Red, Red Rose as the lyrics that have had the biggest effect on his life.

…In the Practical Arts


Made with rosewater, Gulab jamun is a milk-solids based dessert, popular in countries of South Asia such as India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Gulab jamun was first prepared in medieval India, derived from a fritter that Persian-speaking invaders brought to India. The word “gulab” is derived from the Persian words gol (flower) and āb (water), referring to the rose water-scented syrup. “Jamun” or “jaman” is the Hindi-Urdu word for Syzygium jambolanum, an Indian fruit with a similar size and shape.

A Rose is a Symbol of Our Spirituality…Our Connectedness

As the rose has connected us over the span of time it has been richly infused with meaning.  It has nurtured and inspired many kinds of artists in a variety of cultures.  By connecting with basic human needs of sustenance, love, respect, wholeness, these artists and scientists, with their keen powers of perception, have given us experiences which have allowed us to enhance our own perceptions and enrich the values in our relationships with people, places, and things…in our religion, architecture, story, song, culinary delights and more.

Next Post:  

Our Connectedness:  Epigenetics, The interaction of humans (genes) with their environment

3 Responses

  1. Jim Babb

    I enjoyed reading your composition on the “Rose” and was struck by the fact of how narrow my “perception” of the flower has been. Sure I am aware of the various (or most of) interpretations/meanings of the rose in the arts and culture but I never associated them as a whole. Now, after reading this account, I’ll be perceiving a rose more as a 3D-like culturalization, if that’s a word. I also find myself gravitating to certain art interpretations (media) more than others. Does this mean I’m shallow and narrow minded?

Leave a Reply