Are we not all but puppets conceived for someone’s reasons, then delivered onto a stage, on which to learn, evolve, conform or rebel, impact on or be impacted, trampled on and shaped by the others?
When I noticed it the first time ever, it was standing by the side of a road. Why this particular boring, grey, asphalt, naked and unimpressive road, where only cars and bicyclists pass it by, and all of them doing so at considerable speed, I do not know. Maybe that is the reason for it being there? It simply did not wish to be spotted, looked at, paid attention to, worse yet approached? Or more likely, it did not have any choice in terms of its whereabouts. It just happened that this specific spot was imposed upon it by Nature, for a lifetime. After all, when you think about it, is this not the same case for all of us? Are we not all but minute, puppets conceived for someone’s reasons, then delivered into a preexisting situation, a stage, on which to learn, evolve, conform or rebel, impact on or be impacted, trampled on and shaped by the others. If fortunate, stubborn, persistent, driven, yes, a touch of talent does not hurt, we get our moment or so in a spotlight. Otherwise it's the struggles thought the shadows, or castrating conformity, till the 6 feet under.
For Nature is not a democratic system permitting or willing to offer free choices. On the contrary, it is a pragmatically driven, determined to progress and evolve at all costs. It is a tyrannical, overbearing order that imposes upon all of its subservient constituents one objective and one alone - survive and evolve at all cost and by any or all means available. Preserve your scruples, values and principals if you care and can, but otherwise watch your back, or have others do it for you if you can afford it. Then, but only if you are strong and fit enough, go forth and procreate. Enjoy it fully, for even then it's a shot in the dark.
To heighten the pressure, and to innovate, Nature forces all to compete perpetually with all of the others. Failure or disobedience signify weakness and are punishable by death, marginalization or an inevitable extinction. In countless cases this verdict has been applied not just of one member of its type but to the entire kind or species, each and all, irrevocably, without any omissions what-so-ever. Be gone!
This particular individual, and as you will soon see and judge with your own eyes and mind, is indubitably, unquestionably and positively a singular specimen. While surrounded by others, it was not drawing attention to itself. Those others, a few of them, much taller, broader, more upright and stouter than it, were all plain, stark, ordinary, normal, in other words rather boring, just like the road by the side of which they all stood. One might say, without any mean spirit intended, those others and the road were a perfect company for all the others. They simply deserved each other. Except for this particular, thoroughly unique one. On second thought, maybe it is its inner desire to be unique, whether consciously or not, that signifies the very reason for why, over time, it has paid so dearly for its refusal to conform to being just like all of the others?
This particular individual was standing a little away from the road, totally unpretentious, silent, not in any whatsoever way trying to draw attention to itself. In fact, on a closer observation, one might go as far as concluding that this individual is shy and timid. Upon further scrutiny still, one could conclude that this truly atypical character desired to hide in the shadows, definitely be left to itself, unseen, and maybe even be forgotten by the humanity passing by as well as its own kind surrounding it? The immediate question occurring to me is “why”? Why so? Did it have anything to hide? Or what else caused its obvious sense of inferiority? As you shall see, it certainly did not blend with all of the others in its very neighborhood.
Why so? Well, this is where its uniqueness comes in. I found that there are many facets to what makes it a distinctive “it.” For it, not he or she or them, it is. Or is “it” misleading, as is this individual on the face of it? Upon the initial face to face encounter, one would likely and instinctively be repulsed by its first impression, by its posture, shape, its outer persona or its features.
While I truly wonder what it was like in its youth, now it is, and will likely remain for the rest of its survival, a shabby, weathered by time and the elements, eaten away, bitten up, tired and tormented individual. It seemed shocked, maybe even annoyed and embarrassed, ashamed of being discovered and seen in this stage of its lingering life, and its ensuing state of actuality. Reflecting upon it, I appreciated these as truly valid reasons for its inhibitions, hiding away, desiring to remain in the shadow of passing time, away from all other life forms or realities, instead withdrawn into what must be all-encompassing intimate memories it has amassed within its protractedly trying existence.
Yet, reconfirming my doubts, already beginning to emerge above, it occurs to me that my referring to “it” as an individual, though “it” irrefutably is that, may not be entirely accurate. For while on one hand it is a unique entity, it also is, or constitutes, a conglomerate of diverse personas. One might refer to it as a commune, or as a collective of un-identical conjoined cohabitants who simply could not exist or endure without each other what seems, to me, like a tormented existence.
Having verbalized my experience and emotional reflections aroused by my encounter with this distinctive persona, without any further delay, I shall resort to the visual imagery in order to introduce you to “it” or “them”? Yet neither of the terms captures the essence of the being or beings. Sadly, English language does not provide a term that would reflect the spiritual and psychological dimensions or qualities of this entity. Therefore, remembering that “it” does not represent the most appropriate or suitable phrase, since “it” includes and incorporates numerous adherents, most of them distinctive individuals in their very own rights, yet all constituting this one and only entity, let me introduce you to this the most unique of trees. For a, or the, tree it is… and yet its so much more.
Having looked back I realized that I had previously written a blog or two, maybe even three, inspired by trees. What does that mean? Am I transforming into a tree freak? Are trees becoming a new obsession? Or are trees turning into my brand new novel fixation, fetish, mania or idols? In other words am I warped? Are termites disseminating my brain? Will I soon spout branches covered with nuts, all protruding out of my “maturing” stump, one that refuses to revert itself back into shape, and not for the lack of persistent and stubborn trying?
Upon deeper self-analysis I concluded that fixation I speak of might be due to an unexpected change of lifestyle. Wandering and living around the world for some years, I was endlessly challenged to discover, learn, adapt, refurbish by finding my new self within a new formula of a foreign culture, heritage and ways of life. This meant reinventing myself. I do thrive in such challenging conditions. I hunger for them, and never ever have enough. I find them poignant, mind expanding and arousing. They serve as nourishment for my intellectual, spiritual and mental wellbeing. They have kept the termites away.
And now, suddenly, at least until the next adventure, I find myself in a small California college town. In the previous blog I referred to this environment as the “green jungle.” The weather is delicious, greenery is lush, and yet, intellectually, I am starving. Despite a plentiful bouquet of diverse lectures, presentations and screenings, I have not found yet my fountain of wisdom or inspiration. I am staving for an intellectual, and above all a creative turn on. I so desire cerebral, but also emotional ejaculation! So, without being critical of the milieu I find myself in, and given a restricted source of motivation, but also stubbornly refusing to quit, I am turning to an external, natural, organic residual spring of stimuli: nature.
A few of the previous reflections inspired by trees were dedicated to the amazing, gigantic Redwoods encountered in northern California. Those trees, living in the pristine Redwood Park, were extraordinary, not only due to their mighty size, ostensibly timeless longevity, aura of majesty, boldness, outward immunity to time or abuse of elements. They appeared impeccable in their superiority and apparent invulnerability. They are the super heroes of the tree species. One could conclude that they put Humanity to shame. None could compete with them or the air of supremacy they exude. But the tree to which this blog is devoted, exemplifies a total contradiction, the very extreme opposite.
Now, in retrospect, gained through my recent encounter with the protagonist of this very blog, I have realized that, in essence, the Redwoods did not represent individual and unique characters, each their own. Their supremacy was in projecting a glorious glow of the untouchable Master Race superiority.
In contrast, the protagonist of this essay is tiny, insignificant, vulnerable, beaten up to the pulp, eaten up to the core, pitifully meek and humbled by its life’s occurrences. This is despite the fact that its oldness is far, far inferior to that of its Redwood relatives. And yet, definitely despite itself, it projects experience and wisdom that is so rich, extensive, distinctive and powerful. This, entirely unintentionally I’m sure, puts to shame the Redwoods commanding and above it all grandeur. It makes them seem deviously pompous or superficial, which I am confident is not at all its intent, or mine for that matter. They simply represent two extreme counterparts or personifications of the same genus born into distinctly dissimilar circumstances. While Redwood have won their place in the limelight, residual glooms were left for the lead of this essay.
However, since I have run out of words allocation, I shall delay the debut appearance of the one and only.