You would think that for a peony to bloom would be the simplest, most natural process. But in fact, the peony needs help from its friends, the black garden ants.
The flower head of the peony is so tightly bound up, that it takes a team of expert black garden ants working on it for at least three weeks with hardly a break to loosen things up enough so that the flower may bloom.
From very early in the career of the flower, you can see the ants marching back and forth, drawn by the fragrant juices that the intact flower head is secreting.
Sometimes the ants will take a short break from their work when it is raining. But soon they return again.
There is something to be gained for the black ants by assisting the flower in blooming. There is something for the flower to gain by secreting the sweet juice that draws the ants to it.
This is not altruism. It is not parasitism. It is different entities working together each trying to achieve its own separate goal, but helping each other in the process.
This is called symbiosis. It is called mutual benefit.
And as each beautiful petal begins to unfold itself, we see all the good the ants are doing for the peony.
The peony thanks them for their help by feeding them.
Then, when the job is done, the ants go their separate way. They do not complain that they have been laid off, or that the flower is ungrateful for all the help they have given it.
They are happy for the nutrition they earned from the peony, and proud of a job well done, and now they go about searching for food elsewhere.
Why can’t we all understand that we will be paid only so long as our help is needed? Why can’t we move on to something else when the job is done?
The peony and the ants have much to teach us about working together. But they also are a wonderful example of the mutual benefit in temporary partnerships.
When the benefit is no longer mutual, we should just move on.