You know those expressions that have been used to the point of incomprehension? The ones that possess an intrinsically potent message, but are often obscured by unclear analogies or metaphors? Let’s take: A rolling stone gathers no moss. When I first heard this expression, I was at a loss at what it meant. I imagined a heavy, gray boulder thundering down a steep slope at full speed, trampling whatever vegetation it came across. Why people constantly obsessed over its destructive path was a mystery to me. Like the boulder, was I expected to quash whatever obstacles that came before me? Would I then be a rolling stone?
After years of wondering about the meaning behind the expression, it occurred to me that I could simply look it up. And so I have: The expression, “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” refers to the idea that a person who does not settle in one place will not accumulate wealth, status, responsibilities, or commitments.” In essence, the moss is representative of worries, promises, and stressors that plague individuals who have chosen to settle in one place. In contrast, those who are constantly on the move don’t allow external forces to burden them with various commitments or responsibilities, leaving them free to do as they please. Hence, the idea: a rolling stone gathers no moss.
However, upon considering the implications of this well-worn expression, I’ve realized that I’m not cut out for life as a rolling stone. Perpetually tumbling down a steep slope, the hefty boulder is sure to live a life full of freedom, excitement, and movement, one without a moment of dull pause. And yet, such a glorious lifestyle does not come without a cost. For in their constant efforts to propel themselves forward, these individuals can never appreciate what is before them because they’re always in search of something else.
Whether it be loyal friends, loving family, a beautiful sunset, or a garden at full bloom, all will be nothing more than a pleasant and dizzying blur for the perpetual traveler. After enjoying a brief respite for several days, the rolling stone’s mind will once again become restless.
Where to next? Where to next? the troubled rock anxiously thinks to itself. Alas, it is doomed to seek the evanescent happiness that comes from unfamiliar places.
This place is nice and all, but I gotta get going. It’s starting to get boring. Same faces. Same trees. Same scenery. Maybe I should move to New York. That’d be interesting. Or maybe California. Oh, Florida sounds nice!
And while the rolling stone is sure to have a great number of adventures in its harried path forward, it will always find itself in the same conundrum-agonizing boredom with the friendly familiar and a burning desire for the unknown. But the rolling stone doesn’t know that longstanding contentment does not arise from exploring the external, but appeasing the internal.
What do I mean by that? The source of our fatigue with the familiar is not the shortcomings in our environment, but a void in ourselves. A void that we strive to fill with glittering distraction of the new and intriguing. But once the sheen of the exciting unknown is replaced by the dull coating of the ordinary, we again fall into despair. We are unaware that this void has been generated by unrealistic expectations and the misguided conception that there is always something better somewhere else.
In contrast, those of us who have chosen to forgo the bustling life of the rolling stone have chosen a place to settle. Sure, we’ve collected the heavy moss of commitments and responsibilities over the years, but look at our stability! While we also enjoy the new and unknown, we take heart in the fact that there is always a home waiting for us. That we are always tethered to a place that’s safe, welcoming, and familiar.
In essence, while the life of a rolling stone may seem glorious and enthralling to some, it’s certainly not for me. Regardless of where I roam, home is my distant anchor, always providing a sense of security and substantial support. Looking back at my discourse, it seems that I’ve embraced the happy life of a sedentary stone.