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Suburban Tree Dialog 2 (Culturally Speaking)

I have had trouble writing down my discussions with my favorite tree  and getting it into my published dialog. As I have been running I imagine this tree and begin a dialog. When I get to the tree and stop my dialog usually intensifies and I have had a variety of insights  that have changed my perspective on the relationship between myself and the world of plants.

Me: Hello tree

Tree: Hi

Me: I have really been enjoying talking with you. I particularly liked the time you challenged my way of relating to you, and asked whether  just spending time with you wasn't real enough for me. When I stopped to stretch and be with you I spent some time quietly meditating and became aware that you move, roots and branches, and you know what is going on around you through chemical exchange in breathing and through sharing water and soil and that you hear through vibration. You told me that humans are very loud and you can't hear many of the things you  used to hear.\r\n\r\nI also felt a new sense of myself being more still, deeply rooted in  the earth and sky. I don''t think it is an accident that Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting under a bo tree.\r\n\r\n Tree: I like you coming around but you have not come by recently.  Me: I have been working late at the office and haven''t been able to  run as much during the week.\r\n\r\nI have not been able to get much of the dialog between me and the tree down in writing but I have been talking to the tree and I have been changed the conversation. I have been thinking about the meaning of trees in the different stories of tree in western and eastern culture. In Buddhism, the Bo tree that Guatamma Buddha sat under when his meditation culminated in enlightenment is highly revered. Here is a of the <a href="" target="_blank">shrine</a> and the<a href=""> tree</a>. In the Christian tradition that has shaped western culture two trees come to mind, the apple tree in the garden of eden, the Bo tree is a fig, and the dead wood of the cross of the crucifixion. Then if we go real deep into our evolutionary past trees palyed a significant role in the evolution of primates who became well adapted to living in them. Presumably the advent of bipedal locomotion allowed early ancestors of our species to leave the trees as a primary place of residence. I want to develop these themes later in the dialog series but for now I would like to have a discussion with the tree about the human relationship to trees.

Me: I am worried that humans in the west have lost their sense of relationship to trees and plants of all kinds and now we need to reconnect, because we have tremendous power that can cause harm to plants, but don''t know how.

Tree: I am glad you are connecting with me.

Me: I am glad too.

Tree: How can I help you.

Me: Could you be more forceful?

Tree: I don''t know what you mean.

Me: I''m not sure. I guess I am using a human idea in relating to you that doesn''t really apply to you. If I were asking a human to get more forceful I would be wanting them to exert more influence on me by doing things that got my attention and changed how I behaved or at least made me think about behaving differently.

Tree: That is an interesting idea.

Me: But I guess it doesn''t apply to trees.

Tree: Maybe not as they relate to humans. Trees are forceful. We are very powerful in the soil and the air.

Me: But it is hard for humans to see that. We mostly see others of our kind and don''t notice much about anything else.

Tree: That is unfortunate.

Me: I feel that way also.

Tree: What are you going to do about it?

Me: That is a question I have been working on for a while now. I have not done anything effective yet but I have been trying. I guess on the level of connecting and relating with trees and other things that grow in the soil I have been trying to learn more about them and I am trying to find a relationship through our discussion.

Tree: That is good.

Me: It feels good to me. I am starting to read about trees in the book of Genesis to see how trees are related to there. There is the tree of knowledge and the tree of life in the garden of eden. The tree of knowledge gives the knowledge of good and evil, the tree of life gives immortality.

Tree: I don''t give knowledge, I give life. I don''t understand the difference. I know a lot of things about the world deep in the soil, the air, and the creatures who live in me, isn''t that knowledge. I would say I am both trees.

Me: I guess the knowledge of good and evil is what is addressed in the story about the tree of knowledge.

Tree: There is no such thing.

Me: You mean that good and evil don''t exist.

Tree: Yes.

Me: I used to believe that but I am starting to get really pissed off about corporate leaders who are sticking to the corporate line, as if corporations actually existed like trees, plants, people, and animals, and using all the power they can to oppose the rapid change we need from an economic way of behaving that is killing the climate we all depend on for our existence. I am pissed, I think that is evil.

Tree: Maybe I don''t understand what you mean by evil.

Me: I guess what I mean is people who do destructive things that harm other people mainly when they have other options that either create less or no harm, or create benefits to others. The scope of what we are doing now in industrial economics is so massive that it seems like the advocates of the current system are saying fuck it "I don''t give a shit that I''m killing most life by destroying the climate that life has adapted to, I want my shit now, that most of may die as a result is irrelevant", that seems so bad I have to call it something and evil is only word I have that gets close.

Tree: That sounds really bad but I get the sense that the word evil, seems like it is meant to imply that evil is a something, like an acorn, or a mighty wind, or something even bigger like wind that tries to hurt things. I guess that is what I hear when you use the word evil. Maybe I''m not understanding.

Me: I think you are getting at something. Evil seems to be turning bad events, or actions, into a something. I agree, I don''t think that helps make it clear. I have been trying to figure out why we are doing this beyond just labeling it as evil, or greedy which is only slightly better.

Tree: You have been reading, thinking, and writing about this for a while. Tell me what you think. Stop beating around the bush.

Me: I feel like we are ot going to be able to change quickly enough, that there will be tremendous human suffering, and I am tired and discouraged. I don''t think I will be able to do anything to effect this problem. It is weird that I am trying to get into school because I think I might be able to help more if I have a PhD in environmental studies. I feel hopeless, desperate, frazzeled, and worn out when I think about it too much.

Tree: How is that going to help?

Me: I don''t know. Let me tell you the story of Genesis and about the trees in the story and maybe that will help me out of my funk.

Tree: OK

Me: Here is the foundation myth about humankind''s birth and relationship to nature. Trees are mentioned specifically in Genesis in three ways, as a food source, as life, and as knowledge of good and evil.

5: And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.\r\n6: But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

7: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

8: And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.\r\n9: And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

I hadn''t read this part of the bible before and I haven''t quite finished the first read through but out of the box I find it amazing how many of the problems I see in our relationship to nature are clearly defined as Divine dictates in Genesis. So the creation myth starts with earth, and makes plants dependent on the creation of water, which makes sense, and mankind to "till the ground", which doesn''t make sense. It has mystified me that industrialized capitalist human culture in the west seems to behave as if it is independent of nature. I think the Genesis myth and the western culture has provided fertile ground for this. The industrial economy is tilling the earth which is the reason the plants exist. In light of what we know now this is an absurd premise, we now know that humans have existed for only a short time and that plants have existed for a much onger time. The current way our relationship to nature is understood is that we are a species of animal and that all animals exist because they consume the energy of plants either directly if they are primary consumers, vegitarian, or secondary consumers if they eat the animals that are primary consumers. 

Tree: Your kind think long thoughts. We trees think longer thoughts.

Me: Thoughts that pass from generation to generation over many generations turn into ways that people think and understand things. The ideas in Genesis started a long time ago and have been passed through many generations so they are strong in what humans call culture. Culture has a big effect on how what people do. Back when the Genesis creation myth was created humans did not know much about what is now called biology and evolution. Humans also didn''t have the industrial power that we now have. I see a huge mismatch between the western culture of ownership supremacy over nature and our level of industrial power. That myth was wrong but did not have the effect it does now when we are powered by industrial technology and the economic systems that maximize the growth of industrial production.

Tree: Our thought will outlast yours. 

Me: I think you are right. The thinking, or logic of plants has to outlast that of the animal consumers of plant energy and atmosphere. That is the way our living space is put together. Sun, atmosphere, soil, and plant, preceed the viability of the animal population.\r\n\r\nTree: So your concern must be with your own self preservation.

Me: Yes I am and I know that our survival as a species depends on our current climate being hospitable to the plants we depend on for our sustenance and composition of our breathable atmosphere. 

Tree: So you understand your place in the world. How can you get others to understand that the plants came before the humans and that humans can''t live unless the plants flourish. 

Me: I need to do more.

Tree: You haven''t said much about the tree story, Genesis, I am interested in hearing about it.

Me: The story seems, in my reading so far at least, to focus on the tree of knowledge of god and evil. Here is the introduction to that tree in Genesis.

15: And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.\r\n16: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 

sounds like man is God''s caretaker for the garden and can eat from any tree except the tree of knowledge. Why is a tree chosen for the role of the bearer of the knowledge of good and evil? Why not a rodent, bird, turtle, or fish? Why not beans, or wheat? I think it says something about humankind''s relationship to trees and the recognition that they, you guys, sorry about the unintentional disrespect, that a tree is the figure imbued with this knowledge. You trees have deep roots, you reach high in the sky, you live a long time, provide food, shade and shelter for animals. It takes a large presence to be the repository of this type of knowledge.

I''ll get back to this, but  want to change the subject for a second. I liked seeing you the last couple of days and I was particularly delighted when you told me you were dancing. I felt that your roots were dancing in the soil and your branches in the air. I was particularly focused on how your roots were moving in the soil. The next day I noticed that many of your acorns had sprouted and that your leaves made a very nice environment for them to sprout. The difference was water, we have had a little rain in our drought and I think that was what you were delighted about and dancing.

Tree: Yes, I love the rain. My roots particularly like it but it is spread through me and on me in a way that is completely delightful. I love rain.

Me: I took a couple of pictures the other day when I was sharing your delightful dance. The first picture was of one of your sprouts the other is one of your animals. <img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-185" title="tree-sprout" src=" alt="tree-sprout" width="225" height="300" /><img class="size-medium wp-image-186 alignright" title="tree-squirl1" src=" alt="tree-squirl1" width="300" height="225" />\r\n\r\nThat is my way of sharing your delight, I love the rain too. I looked at the forcast a few minutes ago and it says we will be having rain Wed, Thurs, Fri, and Sat. That is more consecutive rain days than I can remember during this drought winter. I like to run and feel a lot better when I do and I don''t like to run in the wet and cold but we really need it and I am happy you will be getting more rain soon. I will have to force myself to run in the rain, not a big sacrafice considering how desperate our need for rain is. Would it be OK if I describe the pictures I took so you can know what I''m seeing.

Tree: I would like that. I know what is around me but I don''t see anything. You do see things, I don''t know what that is like. I wonder if I can understand what you see.

Me: When I came to visit this last time a squirrel climbed down your trunk and stared at me for a while. He went up and down your trunk. He has little claws, sharp things, that let him grab the bark on your branches to move up, down, and around your branches. He/she sometimes moves slowly and carefully, sometimes stoping to look, smell, listen, and talk, other times he moves real fast up, or down, or around your branches. I see squirrels doing this sometimes when i visit you. They seem very happy moving around your branches.

Tree: The scratchy one that climbs me. I like his movement. He makes beautiful patterns with his movements. I feel that and it delights me. You didn''t say anything I don''t know but I think we are seeing, as you call it, the same thing.

Me: Yes I think we are too but I didn''t describe how he looks, what I see when I see him. More correctly, I described him in terms I thought you could understand. I don''t know how to describe his color, shape, how his/her eyes look and move around. He/she is an gray, orange, brown, color mostly. His brown color is similar to the color of your leaves as they get dry and fall off your limbs.

Tree: I can''t feel his color but I like it that you say he is colored like my leaves that fall. Why isn''t he colored like my leaves that are full of life, is he going to fall off?

Me: Most animals are not the color of your leaves that are not falling, we call that color green. Green is a beautiful color that is mostly characteristic of plants. Plants show many different shades of green and to my eyes green is a soothing color to behold. I think the green in plants comes from chlorophyl, I could be mistaken on that my biology classes are a ways back in my memory, but chlorophyl is part of the chemistry of plant leaves and related in some way to the ability of plants to turn sunlight into energy. That ability, along with the ability of plants to use nutrients in soil that are dissolvable in water, provide all the energy that the animals need to live on. Even animals that live by eating other animals are eating the energy of plants in the form of the animal they eat who, when you trace it back, lives either directly by eating plants, or eating another animal that directly eats plants. Yes, green is a beautiful color.

Tree: I didn''t know about my color and how you think it is beautiful, that delights me.

Me: I''m glad you are enjoying this talk, I am too. I think I have to turn our discussion back toward the Genesis myth and the trouble it causes in our relationship to trees and the world of plants in general, but I haven''t talked about the picture of your sprouting acorn. I think we will have to pursue both later today.  

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