I think that I shall never see
A scientist who knows a tree.
And furthermore, I'll never know
An artist thinking like Plato.


Thus tall trees lay eggs...

—Aristotle :: Generatons of Animals

I am simply matching my nature
with the nature of the tree.

—Chuang Tzu

The path up and down are one and the same.


Last week, I bought a tree from Kathy E. for $1. The landlord would not let me plant it in the backyard where it would provide shade someday. It might obstruct the lawn mowers. So, on Wednesday, I planted it in back of a bench on the greenway. Someday it will block the summer sun for an idler catching a breath. I did not have a shovel to dig a deep hole. I only had Rosie's trowel and Lisa's mulcher, so its roots did not set firmly. Nearby were mounds of loose dirt piled up from bulldozers paving the greenway. I filled two plastic bags and packed the dirt around the roots. Then I hung a label on it that the rain blew off overnight. The next day, I hung an orange plexiglas square round it labelled: Earth Day 2010: Tulip Poplar. It rained yesterday and today. Perhaps it will live. Maybe I will draw its picture in a year or two.

An artist does not understand a tree the way our everyday mind does. For our common sense, the tree is already there, given to us as a child in a word. "I see something red, I see something blue, I see something green..." The meaning of 'tree' has been passed down to us as a symbol of the thing called tree; but the tree does not exist as a thing-in-itself. The tree-thing emerged, and continues to emerge, as the set of all relations that have created the tree in the memories of those who believe they see it. Only those who have learned these memories will say they see the tree. Without minds that make the relationships from which trees emerge, trees are indistinguishable from the ground in which they grow—to an elephant, just whiskers; to an ant, vertical earth.

But what is it that is relating and what is it that is being related to? We assume that a relationship is a line connecting things. But why must there be things that relationships connect? Why can't a thing be a set of relations, none of which are things? Answer: because our minds seek permanency, and a name seems to make a relationship static. But naming is always in vain, for the river of relations is always flowing and no thing is forever. Rap on, Herr Heidegger!

An artist destroys the tree, then recreates it, and in the process, reveals what utility hid. The things we believe are there, vanish under scrutiny. Draw a tree for 30 minutes. Do not hurry. Let your pencil leisurely explore the leaves and branches before you. Within 20 minutes, the tree will disappear, and so will the artist. All that will remain are marks on paper slowly fading. Try it. "Was ist dies ding?"

April 24, 2010

fire rock wind stream sun sand cloud ice star tree snow rain