Of Tyrants and Trees

In Random Life and Random Death on February 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm

There is a persistent, blustery wind here today, reminding many of us of the powerful micro-burst of  August 5, 2010 that brought hundreds of trees toppling onto houses and cars within a stunningly short 2-3 minute time frame, in an area about 2 miles squared.

There is an inevitability felt in the visceral impulse to look up at the swaying trees to make sure a stray branch, or the whole tree itself, is not heading in your direction.

Here in the house, we are surrounded in every direction by trees… and a particularly mammoth, illustrious Tulip Poplar in the courtyard, by whose girth I would estimate it to be at least 150 years old.  It is about 50 feet from our front door, leaning in our direction, so that its flight path would appear to slice our unit deftly in two, were it so propelled.

My daughter wants to cut down this tree to preserve her sense of sanity and safety.  But the tree has already been living much longer than us, and barring unforeseen winds or ice or disease, it will continue to live much longer than us.

Aside from the fact that condo and historic preservation rules both bar the removal of trees here even if anyone should wish,  the best course seems to simply accept that the tree deserves to live as is, and we will live with risk, perceived or real.   Because I love trees more than our house and all its objects, and all the made objects of the human world we inhabit.  And of all the things that could unexpectedly shorten our lives–car wrecks, slow death from lifetime accumulation of  insalubrious food ingredients,  any number of diseases, momentary inattention at a crucial moment, or countless filaments of the imagination–dying because of a tree seems the most random, innocent, accidental, and in tune with nature’s permanent impermanence in the cycle of life.

It is the very preposterousness of such a random event happening to anyone that struck me as I walked under the trees this afternoon…and to think that such a random, unpredictable act could strike someone like Muammar el-Qaddafi as equally as me or anyone else, momentarily illuminated our insignificance in the universe…so many people are threatening, or using, weapons against each other in the ache to be “free,” while both sides, and no sides, are all equally susceptible to fluke forces of nature immensely larger than all of us and all our weapons.

All of the headlines and standoffs and bloodshed and fear of bloodshed could be instantly eradicated in the plunk of a tree larger than us any one us.  Except that those surviving would analyze and react and create the next sets of headlines, and so on goes the world.  The only point being that the violence did nothing to help, not even the struggle for freedom….only the non-violence, love, and uniting helped.

Only the peaceful cooperation and sudden melting away of ordinary fear of hundreds of thousands uniting in the streets is what is inspiring, and makes the previously impossible seem possible.  And we all have that power–as John and Yoko convey so beautifully in this video–the power always has been with us, it is simply up to us to realize it, and use it.


Freedom is waiting as patiently as an unopened book.  But many people around the world are opening it, and starting to turn its pages, beautifully.


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