About Trees

Early on we are pampered in the greenhouse of life under ideal conditions, initially.

At the time of sprouting, nobody really cares about how, what or whether at all we think or feel. Every progress is welcomed gladly and supported. Everything appears ideal to us, everything is absorbed by us without hesitation, with no protective doubt, nor choice, and no selection.

Quickly, but a bit confused, we adjust as a seedling to the narrowness of the small pot and the unbalanced over‑stimulating flavour of its fostering soil. We adapt to an apparent given situation even it feels unpleasant but is there any choice?

Suddenly, just when we are ready to pass through the exit of the greenhouse, life interferes with knives and secateurs. In the finishing school, without our consent, we are pruned back according to the opinion of society.

Adult knowledge and expectation are crafted onto us for refinement as they understand it, in order to improve us. This crippling action throws us into a deep panic. For some time we remain in shock and later in frustration and anger and some never recover.

The scrutiny of grading our intelligence submits us to the criteria of an external yardstick with several parameters.  They measure objectively brain activity and attitude determined by the degree we survived this treatment of alleged refinement; how readily we accept the new shoots called culture and etiquette and how willingly we place their value above our own experience and desires as the only true and real ones.

With admiration, they stand around this ridiculous curiosity and exhausted monstrosity they call a tree. It looks like a stick, adorned with three waxed leaves and two huge polished pieces of fruit. They expose it proudly in exhibitions where it receives medals and awards of excellence.

The plant’s ability to survive is only guaranteed in a continuous support system for maintenance and supply as offered by a plantation. Under the supervision of a qualified horticulturist, artificial fertilisers, insecticides and crutches are administered.

The end arrives when the woodworm has conquered the softwood through any lack of resistance and after the collapse when crushed by the self‑inflicted load, to satisfy adopted expectations.

Storms can uproot such trees more easily, when their roots were underdeveloped because all the thriving was directed towards the visible, the far too big crown, and broken because the natural adaptability and elasticity had been lost through striving for a too narrow goal. Moreover, causes for discard are reduced yield because of ageing,

What has happened to those who were sitting in the last row at school, the stranded and the renegades? Those who had not achieved the standards. They were regarded as failures, attention was taken away from them, and they were left to their own devices. As a minority the system ignored them; there was no category, no pigeon‑hole for them. You may find them under ‘Others’.

Some of those others never overcame the hurt and crippling. Some of them live continuously in a dichotomy of indecisiveness, whether to follow their own intuition or aim for the targets they have been taught, always doubting their decision because self-confidence has decayed.

And some of them had managed to wither those alien crafts, their twigs and branches took over entirely, and they began to pursue their own development. They remember the past with a black eye and a wry grin.

A complete return to childlike happiness does not seem possible because the scars of education have hardened the soul too much. But why not trying? They have survived the most threatening danger a child can be exposed to, why giving up as an adult? Despair has no foundation.

Perhaps, one found a place in a small vegetable garden on the outskirts of a city. Laughing children play in its shade, singing birds built their nests in his branches and the woodworms have quite a struggle in the hard, knobbly wood. With his roots securely anchored in the ground the elements of nature, wind, heat, storm, snow, and ice are greeted as messengers, cleaners and helpers for growth.


Wolfgang Köhler 

20 June 1992
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