On the rose

The rose is a transcendental metaphor that exists outside of its velvety petals, thorns, dark green leaves. Whether the rose is just a flower, or something else, goes way beyond its meaning as a simple plant. In fact, there is nothing simple about either the word or the plant. The iconic existence of this flower reaches into the darkest part of the human soul as a metaphor for the transient nature of beauty, the impossibility of fooling the clock, and the ineffable nature of sublime experiences. The inner nature of the rose hints at the mystic, if not mundane, nature of symbols and how they invade the hermeneutic horizon of any given moment in which meaning is being generated. The rose is logos in its most primitive form. The sign of the sign, the inherent, if not obvious, signifier which means signifier, the rose means signified. The rose signifies a meta-signified symbol metonymy that may or may not mean anything more than a bit of nature that arbitrarily signifies beauty, love, aesthetics, youth, and an almost unlimited host of other things. We give roses because they are beautiful and because they will not last. The rose’s beauty is transient and a symbol of the finite nature of all physical beauty. The rose is, then, a piece of tragic irony because it invests all life, all creatures, all humans with meaning. Juliet understood that some things, some people, transcend their names, and that names do not always square with the thing, person, being signified. Nothing lasts, nothing stays the same, everything changes, even change. The fact that all flesh will eventually pass away is a universal truth that is reflected in the short-lived flesh of the rose. We give roses because like the human being, we can only face our mortality when we see it reflected in another living thing–even a thorny plant. The aesthetic of the rose, the petals, the fragrance, the velvety texture of the dark red flower, the painfully sharp thorns adorning the stem, the innocuous green leaves, form a whole which is both contradictory and unifying, hard and soft, round and pointy, fragrant and gritty, iconic, but all of that is undergirded by the promise of corruption and decay. The beauty can only be beautiful because it cannot last, born into corruption, the perfect rose blossom will always only ever point to the end of existence, a musty, off-purple, decadent flower that represents death, dying and corruption. The rose is at once a symbol of birth, death, and resurrection, replicating the human experience in its most basic form. As we observe the rose, we are also observing ourselves since the rose is the image, imago, of the human form–birth, youth, middle-age, old age, and death. What we see in the rose and its short life is our own mortality, but we also see the beauty of nature that exists outside of ourselves, that there is something beautiful outside of ourselves. Yet, the rose, feminine, anonymous, unknown, transcendent is inscrutable and silent, a sphinx, unwilling to ever reveal its secrets. The name of the rose, whether post-modern or medieval, is unknowable and undiscoverable. The mystery of the rose cannot be divined in any sense because it transcends all realities and all simulacra. A rose is a rose is a rose only if it is never a rose which means that the essence of the rose is larger than any given rose that might grow in your garden, which is anecdotal. In the end it is a fight between the thorns and the fragrance, a paradox of that which is sublimated by the beauty of the flower that has no function, does no work, has no reason for existing unless it is to produce more flowers, more flowers that mean everything but produce nothing.