Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

49. Rolling Stone

Whenever I come across Rocky Mountains, I remember the proverb ‘Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss’. I have not been so far able to make the connection. I have a strong childhood memory associated with the proverb though.

I had just shifted from a remote village to a comparatively better village, to learn English. I was in 7th standard then. My classmates were studying English for two years, and I was not sure whether ‘Aunty came to my home yesterday’ was correct or ‘Ant came to my home yesterday’ was the right statement. I invariably made such mistakes and the class laughed, making me feel more stupid than I was.

May be because I made kids laugh, I had many friends. One was my best friend, I still remember her. Because she wrote with left hand, I too learnt to write with left hand –just to remember her throughout.

One day we had a serious disagreement. The teacher had referred to ‘Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss’ proverb in the class. During the break, I told her, “I am going to Roll so that I gather no Moss’. “You are absolutely an idiot”, she shouted at me. Kids generally are not hypocrite. Today instead of ‘weakness’ we say ‘scope for improvement’ and we don’t dare to label anything as ‘failure’, we say ‘it is not failure but a delayed success”!!

“Didn’t you hear the teacher telling, ROLLING STONE GATHERS NO MOSS”, she was still shouting… you know how noisy it is during breaks in school. “But exactly that is the point. I don’t want to gather moss”, I too started shouting.

My friend was pained. She came near, held my hand. She explained with lot of patience, “But moss is not really moss. It is knowledge, wealth, fame, power… if you keep on moving, you will not have any of those. Please, do not decide to roll, stay rooted at one place and you will be successful”.

I completely disagreed with her. I interpreted moss as something one should not have, and she interpreted moss as something one should strive for. We had a long heated argument. Other friends tried to divert our minds, but we kept on arguing. As a result we did not speak to each other for a week. Then there was a kho-kho match with other class and we came together to discuss strategies. Somehow the ‘rolling stone’ never appeared in our conversation in the next three years while we were together. Then I completely lost track of that part of my life.

Even today I am not sure who was right then.

It all depends on interpretation, perspective, understanding and vision. I guess both of us were right in our sphere of thinking. If we keep our ideas to ourselves, it is ok. Problem arises when we start convincing others and when we try to win heads and hearts.

It seems that the proverb is against people who keep on moving, because it is assumed that moving people do not take responsibilities. As they do not have roots, they become reckless and they tend to create dissent. So, it seems that people see ‘moss’ as something desirable.

Wikipedia informs that: The literal meaning of the statement itself is true. This was in fact validated by the television show MythBusters, which after the course of six months confirmed that a rolling stone does not grow moss. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_rolling_stone_gathers_no_moss

But what if you look beyond physical stone and physical moss? What if you look beyond matter?

One sees non-rolling stones with no moss. One sees non-rolling stones with lot of moss. One sees rolling stones with no moss and one also sees rolling stones with lot of moss – in whichever way you define moss. Some people who keep moving have better understanding of life and some people who have not crossed the boundary of their village can have similar sensitivity and understanding towards life around.

What I find funny is that the proverb assumes that a stone has a choice whether to roll or not to roll. It also assumes that moss has no such choice. When the plant kingdom is supposed to have more consciousness than the matter (remember our classification of animate and inanimate in the school?), how come matter takes over consciousness? The stone may or may not have choice about gathering moss… and it does not necessarily have complete control over its movement. It is also assumed that all moss is always desirable. Being human, sometimes I want ‘moss’ (it means different things at different times) and sometimes I do not want moss – how to deal with the dilemma? And what about the price the stone has to pay to accumulate moss? What if one can do without moss?

Recently I visited a place, which I never wanted to leave… and I said, “Thank God, it was wise of me to leave….” The other day I was at a place which I badly needed to leave but did not leave and I said, “…..”

Never mind what I said. The point is even if I roll or I don’t roll, I keep on gathering lot of moss… making movement meaningless sometimes.

Now I am going to search for that ‘best friend’ and see how she interprets the proverb now. I seek either an interesting movement or an intense stability.


  1. So, to keep on moving is such an old agenda....
    Why don't you move away from this well set agenda?
    Wouldn't it be interesting to break this stereotype now?


  2. What did you say when you found out that you were still at the place that you badly needed to leave?
    Yep, you asked all of us not to bother...
    Anyway, I will call you.. be ready to answer me...


  3. I have started reading your posts regularly. I liked this post and also the earlier one. I have difficulty in writing the comment, hence sharing it through e-mail.


  4. Joy, that is a great idea.

    ASHA, even on phone I could say 'Don't bother'... Be ready for that.

    VN, thanks. Don't worry about writing comments. If you enjoy the post, that is enough for me.


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