My spiritual advisor taught me how to communicate with trees. After my first attempt didn’t go well, I confronted her.
That tree you sent me to told me to get lost.
She gave me a look of disdain. What did you say to upset it?
Nothing, I did just as you described.
A tree has never said such a thing to me before. I told you, you have to approach them cautiously. We sat for a moment in an awkward silence. Well, she finally said, a tree mostly reflects back what it receives. Try approaching it again, this time with love in your heart.
I swear I did. I was friendly. I asked how it was.
Try again. Pay special attention to how you really feel. An old tree like that has a lot of wisdom and is able to sense your deepest levels.
So I went back to the old weeping willow tree. I hadn’t realized how cautiously I had to be in my approach. If it could sense my being to its core – that subconscious layer of doubt and distrust and anger – would it open up to me after sensing this ugliness, and if it did, could it force me to confront my own feelings and dig out any deeply rooted resentments to get me into a better place?
I waited for a nice day with a light breeze so that its leaves swayed gently, putting him in what appeared to be a good mood.
I approached it slowly, staying just beyond its outer umbrella of drooping leaves. Listen, I said, deeply from my gut, I think we got off on the wrong foot. I admit I came to you before rather cynically, not really believing we’d be able to communicate, but I hope you realize that I chose to come to you, rather than any other tree, because I see and feel in you the embodiment of love.
I instantly knew he was right. Deep down, what I desired more than anything was to build a beautiful fort among its limbs, where I could hide away within the sweeping layers of its leaves and watch the insincere world whisk by. There was no point in denying that fact.
Wow, that’s amazing. I hate to admit it, but you’re right. I can hardly believe how I’ve lived in denial of that, but thanks to you I can see it now. The thing is, though, now that we’re communicating, I can assure you I’d never act on that desire. It is possible for me to just be friends, to sit here quietly and enjoy each other’s company.
But you’d always want more.
I can control it.
You like to think you can, but everything you do requires discipline, everything – which isn’t your strong suit.
That can’t be true. I spend most of my life relaxing, or trying to find the time to do so, and that doesn’t require any discipline. My deepest desire is to relax, to sit in your shade and read a book or lounge on a beach next to the ocean.
Nonsense, your deepest desire is to reenter the womb. That’s all my shade and limbs are to you, a symbolic secure womb. Having sex for you is literally an attempt to make such a reentry, which is why my shade isn’t enough. You want to feel safe, so eventually you’d build a fort, and then you’d want to expand it. There’s no satisfying you.
I stood mute. He knew me too well, better than I knew myself. Even the thought of lounging on the beach was, indeed, a desire to feel serenely secure – even better if the beach was private and next to my own luxurious oceanfront house. I instantly realized that every house I saw, especially those mansions along the beach, were like little symbolic wombs lined up along the shore, in the most comfortable of places. Well, this was proving to be much more difficult than I had imagined.
I’m not sure if that’s completely true. I do have my limits.
Sure, he said, fear of death keeps you limited, though you don’t really believe in death. You think you’re going to live forever. Not that you don’t have some discipline. You’re not as fat as you would be if you ate everything you wanted. But you can barely restrain your desire to dive head first into the baked food display of every café you enter.
That was true, I thought to myself. I wanted to fill my pie hole with baked delights and roll around in them until you couldn’t tell where I began and the pastries ended.
He continued. And with your well-established history of failure, you want me to trust that you won’t give into these desires? It’s in your nature to fluctuate between extremes in a continuous cycle. You screw up, so you administer self-punishment and go through a monastic period, you think you’ll stay in this ascetic trance forever, but you never do, you always cave, and then you go wild to make up for all the deprivation. Before long I’d be more fort than tree.
I’m really not that bad.
Sure, I’ll give you some credit for not being in jail, so yes, you’ve been able to suppress many of your urges. But it takes the threat of jail to keep you in line, and the threat of death and what might come after to limit your behavior. Face it, the only thing keeping you from completely destroying this planet is the fear of what the conditions would be like should you be reincarnated. You pretend you don’t believe in reincarnation, but deep down, this is what you count on for eternal life. Without these checks and balances, you’d take over the planet entirely. Your kind would cover every inch of space if you could, and still you’d spend as much time as possible trying to create even more of you. Now go away.
I couldn’t move. Was I really so self-absorbed that I couldn’t see what I was? I had to say something to defend myself. I couldn’t be as evil as he believed. And then it dawned on me. How are you any different, I asked?
What are you talking about? I’m nothing like you.
No? What stops you from covering every inch of the planet with little weeping willows? If you had your way, you’d do the same as us. But you can’t. You’re limited by other species and your inability to move from this spot. You don’t really have any discipline at all, because you don’t need it. Your life is completely controlled by the physical limitations imposed on you, so you enhance your own security, and thus survival, by acting as this great source of wisdom. I can’t blame you, since you have the ability to live as long as you do. It’s not like you can do anything else. Hell, it’s easy being you. I at least have to engage in discipline, which, as you have implied, I do every moment of the day.
He let out a harumph. No one ever knows what you’ll do next, whereas I’m satisfied with who I am and where I am at.
Really? Just because you lack my abilities doesn’t mean you don’t have the same desires. You like to think you’re satisfied by the act of just being, but even as we speak you’re trying to expand your roots as far as you can, right under my feet, and you’re dispersing seeds as far as the wind will blow. Hell, I bet you’d go wild and dance across the earth, if you could be me, leaving an endless trail of debris as you went.
He didn’t say a thing.
I’m right, and you know it.
I could sense every fiber of his being tense up, every molecule of chlorophyll spasmodically flopping through his veins and leaves in an avalanche of stress, thinking about what I had said, longing for such freedom.
After a long silence, he said. Go away little man, and leave me alone. Think what you will.
I snickered cynically. You can’t even admit I’m right, can you?
Again, silence. For a while I thought he had shut me out, pretending he could no longer communicate, but I knew better and he knew it, too. No tree or plant or animal could shut me out again.
Do you feel better now, he finally gave in.
I smiled. You know, I do. I really do. I’m glad we had this talk.
I walked on, feeling justified for all of my actions, looking for others to connect with.