The Tree of Life
Copyright (c) 2004 by Heidrun Beer - all rights reserved
Contemplating the idea of a tree as a representation of life can be a deep spiritual exercise.
The tree's branches all go into different directions, some of them are directly opposed to each other - and yet they grow out of the same root.
The fairness with which they share the available space is amazing. Each of the branches uses their share of water, sunlight and nutrients just for their own development - never to fight the other branches. Together, they make for the perfect shape of the plant - without their growing into opposite directions, the beauty of the tree would not be complete.
The tree's twigs and leaves carefully make sure that every little bit of space is covered, so that optimum use is being made of the available sunlight. We see the same principle in the evolutionary tree, where life also has developed forms to inhabit every ecological niche.
We, the human beings, are the only ones who see conflicts where there are none. On different continents, in different countries countless cultures and sub-cultures have developed, many of which have learned to co-exist in peace. Nobody would think of seeing a conflict between music styles or categories of painting, between diesel and gas engines, between car traffic and train traffic, or the various cultures of clothing. All these sub-cultures and sub-sub-cultures are considered welcome contributions to the richness of cultural expression.
Yet in some areas we seem to have accepted brutal conflict, even violence up to the extreme of deadly war, as the normal scene. The opposition patterns typical for our species, which are imprinted on us on a biological level, are wrongly being projected into the social arena. Religion and sexuality are two of the problematic areas - unfortunately, not the only ones. Cultural rigidity in questions of sexual conduct has produced countless personal tragedies leading as far as rape followed by murder. And especially the religions can't seem to be able to grant to each other the respect they want for themselves. We need to study the roots of this situation - a fundamental confusion about the Nature of God - in order to really understand it.
But even without this study, which can take up weeks, if not months of a lifetime, something could be done to better the situation, right here and now. We need an exercise in tolerance, specifically tailored to the most critical topics. If we just could re-train our minds in a way that lifestyles and convictions which used to cause the most violent conflicts are viewed as peacefully co-existing, that they are allowed and re-trained to grow into opposite directions without being fought for being what they are - a co-existence like between the branches of a tree -, life would be totally different.
The idea of the tree can be applied to most things: cultures, races, species, religions, genders, sexual orientations, maybe even life forms beyond the borders of Earth. Its general lesson is the value of variety: Greater variety means more choices for every single individual to find a niche for himself which really fits his personality. Creation becomes richer by greater variety, not poorer - and so it should be promoted, not suppressed.
The picture to the right demonstrates how the different directions of its branches are even necessary to make the tree a perfect representative of its kind! Fighting each other would destroy their natural shape, because now one branch would grow into the space of another instead of filling its own space with the very special features which make up its own self.
The branches of the tree express a passion to pursue their inborn direction - without ever thinking of interfering with the direction of the others - which should make us pause for a moment and contemplate the great determination of what they are doing, the innocence in their patient and persistent energy, and the sensitivity they have for the development of their neighbours as well as their opposites.
A special note: Regarding the various religions, it is interesting to observe that while there are many religions who each claim to give a complete picture of the relations between the supreme being and his creation, the truth is that they each represent just one branch of the "religious tree of life", not the whole tree, which becomes obvious when we look at the way they are treating "gentiles" or non-members, and the way they treat other denominations.
There are dozens of religions who believe to possess the "real truth", but there is only one denomination which could be said to be located at the root of the tree: the Baha'i religion. These people hold on to the faith that it is the same spirit who has spoken through the prophets of all the religions. They use prayers from the Bible as well as the Quran and various Eastern texts, and their temples are open to all sides. They seem to be the only ones who really understand and honor the common root of all religious branches.
However, there is wisdom in all of the religions, and all of them can provide valuable guidance to their members, both in spiritual and practical matters - as long as they stay clear of the pitfalls of fascism. Any member of any church needs to take personal responsibility for his church to remain clean and ethical. Any swing into a fascist attitude or behaviour is a reason to either correct the course immediately, or to leave that particular church, branch of a church, or church community.
"Being Good" versus "Being Better"
A group or culture's idea of being good results from their mastery of difficult conditions. Years of good harvest despite floods and droughts, general wealth, a workable health system, technical progress, consistently successful education of children over many generations, good care for the seniors, a large pool of renowned artists and successful sportsmen - these things are reasons for a culture to be proud of itself.
Where "being better" is the aim of a peaceful contest, as in the Olympics, there is still nothing wrong with it - "being the best" of many contestants is yet another valid reason to be proud!
The problems begin where "being good" turns into "being better" than another group, culture, race, church or species, especially where this idea is being used as a reason to steal the other's resources - land, water etc. -, or to threaten or fight them with overt or covert violence, to invade their country, or to discriminate against them where they are part of the population. Here one branch of the tree has become unhealthy (well, healthy for itself but unhealthy for the whole tree). It is growing into the space of its neighbour or it is choking another branch, and the gardener - who normally is into preservation rather than destruction - needs to react by dusting off his tools in order to cut away the offending branch, or root, if it is not possible to re-educate it into peaceful co-existence.
The image to the left shows what an old garden book recommends to do if a tree's root chokes the neighbouring root. The gardener has to cut it away in order to save the branch which is connected to the endangered root. The typical sign for such a situation is when the leaves of one branch begin to wilt, while the rest of the tree is still healthy.
So the offending part of the tree has to be removed, but how do we accomplish this without using violence, which would cause us to become exactly what we want to remove: an offender in the tree of life?
We accomplish any change to the tree of life by changing our thinking. Of course it makes only a minor impact on reality if you or I change our thoughts, but reality is like an image which consists of thousands of pixels, and if some process can manage to change all the pixels, even if they are small, the image in its entirety can and will change!
Read here how reality works and how you can change it for the better.
Actually, viewed from the viewpoint of the whole tree, it is a self-healing which occurs, because there is nobody outside it who could play the role of the gardener. The tree simply re-directs its resources into the growth of a new limb. It grows into the space which is occupied by the unhealthy branch, and because the unhealthy branch is corrupted and therefore weak, it loses the competition for sunlight and sooner or later disappears. The image to the right shows an example of a tree where the root has grown a whole new branch to repair the damage where limbs had been lost. It starts to grow right at the bottom and sprouts a new branch wherever there is a space to fill out!
Now here ends the analogy between human life and the life of a tree: because in the case of human interaction, we can always choose on which branch we want to live. We are not tied to a twig for a whole lifespan - we can move and change and make decisions. So we can decide which (healthy) branch to strengthen by working with it, and which (unhealthy) branch to weaken by no longer working with it, at any moment of our existence. There is no violence involved - which is actually the only way a living system can correct itself: by strengthening the good and weakening the bad until it has disappeared.
This page last changed on: 21. Dec 09