There are spaces between what speech we speak and what sights we see. I dwell where language overlaps creation.
My mind heeds the heart’s
I once learned on the television show, NOVA, that the lifespan of Our Earth could be visualized as a calendar of the year. And in this visualization, if we were to indicate the footnote that is human history, it would be relegated to last few seconds of 11:59PM on December 31st of that calendar year. Repeat that to yourself – human history is equivalent to only the last few seconds of the last minute of the last hour of the last day of the year.
In this miniscule slice of time, we and all of our ancestors have borne witness to greatness. How remarkable are the creatures who inhabit the driest deserts, the sheerest cliff faces, and the highest mountain peaks – whose kith and kin have generated the stuff of life wordlessly for nearly 400 million years! The anthropocentrist in me wishes that I were speaking about humanity, but the spotlight shining on human history is actually the umbra cast by giants all around us.
I am, in fact, talking about trees.
Recent research finds that there are approximately 3.04 trillion (3,040,000,000,000) trees on Our Earth. Silently, thanklessly, trees go about their business all around us. It is safe to say that humanity’s relationship to our giant friends is complicated. After all, humans are linguistic creatures, but trees do not speak. Humans are populous, but trees outnumber us about 422:1. In our earlier days, before we had settled and civilized, and even thereafter, trees offered shelter, raw materials, food, and defense. As humans trod into unfamiliar domain, trees were probably a comforting constant. Humans seek the sacred, and our giant friends were awe-inspiring; their silent mystery held us rapt.
Naturally then, the tree is a consistent motif in mythology and cosmology. Yggdrasil is the massive tree of Norse mythology whose roots and branches permeate and connect the different realms of the cosmos. The esoteric Judeo-Christian tradition of Qabbalah arranges the different emanations of God’s Creation along a sacred “map” called the Tree of Life. There is evidence that Germanic and Celtic pagans often worshipped outside in sacred groves and believed that spirits inhabited trees. Even now, in the modern sciences of Taxonomy and Linguistics, there are “tree diagrams.”
Despite 1,000 years of Christianization, language is a resilient record of history. We need not look to exotic foreign languages to find our proof! English still clings onto its Pagan past with “knock on wood,”the names of days,
But over time, this friendship ha
“The cosmocentric man, who lived in harmony with his ecosystem, developed into an anthropocentric creature with devastating consequences [for] nature.” (Gadgil & Chandran, 1992:1).
“The grove was said to be at the origin of the temple, whose columns were initially trees, and of the Christain church which still evokes by the alignment of its pillars, the semi-darkness within it, and the soft coloured light that filters through its stained glass windows.” (Gadgil & Chandran, 1992:1).
“The Bishnois of Rajasthan never uproot or kill any khejadi (Prosopis cineraria) tree[s].” Prosopis cineraria is sacred to the Bishois. – Tree of Life, Bahrain (400 years old, growing in desert)