I love this painting! Here's the explanation that went along with the portrait on one of the websites:
"As we walk the road of life, we tend to collect things that make us feel safer and more sure of ourselves. These may be material possessions, titles or responsibilities, but in the end they amount to the same thing: a fleeting and superficial sense of security. It is only by holding fast to our beliefs that we can navigate life with any confidence.
"The character in Hold to the Rod finds himself so burdened with the mundane objects he has collected that, while he hopefully eyes the rod, he cannot reach up to hold it for fear of losing something else. The man has become little more than a vehicle for his adornments. He demonstrates that what is truly important is keeping sight of our true belief and faith, that they alone will guide us through."
So true. The story of the tree of life mentions a lot of things that get people to let go of the iron rod, but I never thought about the busyness of life being one of the causes. But it definitely makes sense! Life can really get in the way of the really important stuff sometimes! Hopefully, we all have the opportunity, every now and then, to step back and weed out the unimportant things, so that the things that bring us pure joy are the only things left!