Yo, what a freak
I’m a tree
(No you’re not)
I’m a tree
–Imani Coppola/I’m A Tree
Driving home from work, stuck in traffic, I noticed three trees at the side of the freeway. All the same type. One was sort of squat–stubby and scarred. One was tall and robust–the only one that really seemed to be flourishing. The other was thin and scraggly.
It made me wonder, the way things always do, if trees notice differences between themselves.
Does the spruce envy the weeping willow its pliable branches and soft leaves?
Does the willow envy the noble fir for being so tidy and green all year?
Does the fir envy the cherry for its flowers and fruit?
Does the cherry have a superior attitude because it doesn’t have scratchy needles like a pine tree?
Not likely. Given the lack of brains, trees probably aren’t big on labels. Classifying isn’t something they get called on to do in life like animals do. They reach for the sun as best as they can with their branches, and send their roots down for as much nourishment as they can find.
Trees know their job and they do it. No worry. Probably no pleasure, either.
Humans love to compare and label. We classify. We sort.
We wish we were taller. Shorter. Thinner. Darker. Straighter. Slimmer. Better. Worse. We’re happy when we’re doing better than other humans. We’re sad or anxious when we feel like we’re not doing as well.
We don’t spend a lot of time just being.
It’s the thing that makes us build things, but also the thing that leads to excess. Avarice and war. Caring and compassion. Because we are so successful at adapting, the only thing that keeps us in check is…us.
Mostly, we run rampant. At some level, I think most of us know that. We feel a need to rationalize it by claiming a higher purpose, or a better spot in the evolutionary chain.
Ultimately, the Earth will win.
The trees won’t care either way.