On Trees

Marquesia macroura in Northwestern Province, Zambia

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” ? Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen ind Gedichte

I loved that passage about trees by Hermann Hesse. It sort of reminds me of Rupert Sheldrake’s ideas about morphic resonance. It’s like my monkey body has relic form due to millions of years of close interaction with trees like opposable thumbs and eyes that see many shades of green. Trees have dangling fruits, provide shade, have fire adaptation, and protection from exposure that they evolved in their forms by having a symbiotic relationship with primates. You see this in bold red print in Africa.

There is so much information in a tree. It is a living record that emanates wisdom. Our ability as humans to evolve is in a lot of ways connected to the way we interact with trees. We have forgotten that we are children of the old mother nature and that evolutionary forces made us into what we are. That’s exactly what nature says to me every day. That I am supposed to be challenging myself physically and spiritually the same way that a tree does because I have a partnership with that tree. It is a part of me, and I am a part of it. We are essential to each other, respectful of each other, and responsible for each other.

It tells me that if I kill something, I am responsible for its life. How can we expect that we will be able to overcome the challenges of the future if we ignore the millions of years of our symbiotic relationship with other organisms that undoubtedly made us human?!! We cannot overcome this fact, we just can’t! We have sure tried to deny it though!! We will never overcome our own chemical makeup and the fact that we are made of cells, and DNA, and atoms, and that all of this is at the mercy of nature. How can a few thousand years of dominator culture suppress or make us unconscious of what happened for many millions of years before that?

The knowledge of what happened for many millions of years before dominator culture oozes out of nature. It screams, begging to be heard. Once you hear it, you can’t deny it is there. It strikes the deepest fear and opens a terrifying black hole the size of the universe. It shows you that nothing can be measured. It forces you to wholly submit. It is maternal. But if it is frightening, it must be worth exploring. It is still in the subconscious of every human being, but we have to learn to deconstruct culture, especially culture that preaches fear as a motivating force.

Across the entirety of humanity, this is the ONLY idea that is constant. It is omnipresent. It is the thing that makes us Homo sapiens.

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