We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Trees Are People Too

The Senator
The Orlando Sentinel  posted a news item (here) on January 17th reporting the burning of one of the world's oldest trees, a cyprus called the Senator, which was severely burned under what at first seemed to be suspicious circumstances.  The Senator was estimated to be about 3,500 years old, making it not only one of the oldest trees in the world but also one of the world's oldest living beings.  It was 118 ft. (36 m.) tall and about 18 feet  (5.5 m.) in diameter.  For more details about the Senator and the fire see this news posting at the Mail Online (here).

After the fire, the tree now stands only 20-25 feet tall, but it isn't clear to me that the fire has actually killed the Senator although some of the language in the news postings suggests that it is dead.  While living in Thailand, I once witnessed the death of a grand old tree, surely more than 100 years old, at the hands of an over-zealous administrator who wanted its spot on the planet for something else (which was never built).  It's sad to see these tries die.  They connect us to the past, a living past.  It is incredible to think that something could live as long as the Senator did.

The death of the Senator, I suppose, also reminds us of our own mortality.  Even if medical science will eventually be able to extend our life spans into the hundreds of years, which now seems not only possible but likely—even so, we but delay an end that in one way or another must come.  The hope for eternal life promised by most religions doesn't change the fact that what we are now is no more than a passing moment and we must die.  It's what we do with the years we're given that matters.  And, for us at least, the Senator did a very good thing simply by being one of the Earth's oldest living beings.