Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"I Want to Live Like a Tree"

The oldest tree in Korea is a Chinese Jupiter that some scholars think could be 6,000 years old. The oldest tree in the world is a spruce in Sweden.  This is the way a priest writing for priests begins his reflections on a book recommended by Cardinal Kim: "I Want to Live Like a Tree."

The priest tells us that the author of the book, a problem child, failed in whatever he set out to do, blaming himself for his lack of talent. At the age of thirty he considered himself a failure and even considered taking his own life. It was at that time, while he was in the mountains and standing at the edge of a cliff, his life having lost all meaning, that a tree entered his world. It seemed to be saying to him, "I am living; why are you thinking of giving up your life?"

Once a tree puts down its roots its fate is to remain in that place, the author explained. It  has no complaints and  does not surrender to something else, but gives its all, and just in the place where it is. During the harsh winter cold, with its gaunt naked body, it stands stately in  detachment. The author of the "I Want to Live Like a Tree" became a tree doctor and  confesses that trees showed him the  value of life.

Reading the book the priest  learned to apply the same wisdom to his own life and to see that all of  creation follows the same destiny as a tree.  Even in poor soil, the roots of a tree move downward into the earth to find the strength to grow. We are not much different, says the priest. Existence may sometimes not seem attractive but that is where we sometimes find ourselves. When that happens, he says we have to accept our cross and carry it, like all of nature. We may not like it but that is our destiny.
However, what is important is that I take my cross but not  go my way. I take my difficulties and hardships and 'follow Jesus'. When we take our crosses as our destiny and gaze on Jesus, we find that makes all the difference:  in Jesus we find meaning and the beginning of a new life.

The trees in the Fall lose their leaves, preparing for the winter and a new beginning in the coming Spring. Some trees take a rest for a full year to regain energy for the following year, in order to gain nutriments for the future. And sometimes, though the tree trunk may suffer damage, the leaves, seeming not to care, continue to thrive.

Like a tree we began life without anything  and will leave without anything; and yet, when we have something in hand and  not wanting to let it go, we can miss the chance to be born again, as a tree does every Spring.

Did the tree doctor ever read,  the poem by Joyce Kilmer? He  would  have had  similar feelings wouldn't he?
               I  think  that I shall never see
               A poem lovely as a tree.
      A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
      Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
      A tree that looks at God all day,
      And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
      A tree that may in Summer wear
      A nest of robins in her hair;
      Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
      Who intimately lives with rain.
      Poems are made by fools like me,
      But only God can make a tree.

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