Thursday, July 18, 2013

Going My Way?

I guess I could only make only about one or two posts per month (and this world would, of course, be a poorer place) if I didn't find ideas and stories of events past and present while poking around on the Internet and through what print materials drift by.  My poor old head can only do so much on its own.  So, with full credit to, I'd like to share an observation about the frameworks we use to make some sense of all the inputs we absorb from a big and noisy world.  Mr. Greer, luxuriously bearded author of precisely written essays on that site, this week offered a pair of metaphors for how we think.

Some conceive of human history as linear progress, interrupted and rerouted for periods as it may be, like a road into the future; traffic does get stalled but the movement is inevitably forward.  This is certainly what we think due to our societal values and education, while more than half the populace prefers to look at it in the rearview mirror instead of through the front windshield, trying desperately to return to some previous point in the journey when everything was settled and everyone submitted happily to authority.  So those who believe in scientific and rational progress (what he calls the secular religion) look forward and those whose beliefs are founded in emotion, sentiment (that poor relative of emotion) and theological religion look back to a golden age, but almost all think in terms of a directional road.

Another way of thinking sees time and events as a tree:  an unrecorded beginning as a seed, surviving if resources are found, growing through good times and carefully conserving during adversity, roots searching for sustenance and branches reaching for sunlight full of productive leaves, the ones in the dark naturally dying out.  The journey is up, down and out, but the horizon stays where it always is; there is no illusory forward motion except through time.  This may be a better metaphor for us to go by, as it places humanity on the planet like the tree, succeeding or not depending on the realities of resources and threats, not losing the clear perception of those realities through a fog of abstract beliefs.  Funny to think of some cogitating trees confusing themselves so much with theories of how things are, were or will be that they create the conditions for their own early failure.

Nearby, someone just ordered the clear-cutting of yet another gerrymandered-looking parcel of land, probably to sell or "develop."  A while ago, two streets in town were denuded of big trees and the houses and sidewalks now roast in the sun.  The trees are playing the long game, though:  they'll be back when we idiots hit the end of the road.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Plant the tree and what how it grows.