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Why fruit first

I had an awesome date this morning. ‘Date’ as in a date fruit, and ‘had’ as in I chomped heartily on one.

Considered the oldest cultivated fruit in the world, fossil evidence suggests that the phoenix dactylifera goes back at least 50 million years. But this is not about the history of the date fruit but the lessons it bears.

For 50 million years, this and several other seeded fruit have traveled widely using a basic principle – dispersion. Nature, in its usual unselfish way wrapped the seed with the gift of fruit.

The notion was that animals (like you, me, goats) would pick up the fruit, chomp on it and flip the inedible seed into a fertile corner usually far away from the tree it originally came from. That seed would eventually grow into a plant that could potentially generate more fruit and disperse more seeds.

There are other methods by which seeds are dispersed and the observations of such methods have always inspired man to create outstanding innovations.

Dandelions probably stirred up ideas of parachuted cargo. Coconuts floating across oceans helped understand the direction of currents. Mr. de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, realized that tiny hooks of cockleburs were stuck on his pants – and invented the Velcro fabric brand. Man, in his own self-centered way used these lessons to make his own life better.

But there’s one lesson I learnt from my date with the phoenix dactylifera – that to give unreservedly first is a powerful principle that can change the way we live and work. Can we help alleviate someone’s pain without expecting him or her to take care of ours? Can we go into a business meeting to see how we can help first, instead of helping ourselves first? In times like these, can we start practicing being the fruit instead of simply peddling our seeds?

If a humble date can survive 50 million years based on this principle, surely there’s a lesson there for all of us.

PS: It’s entirely possible that the seed may land in a crack between rocks – but that does not stop the seed (or the tree) from trying. Nature takes care of that seed and blesses the tree with more fruit.

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