The tree. It was immense and spectacular and it rose to completely fill the center of the atrium. Hundreds of leaves, sparkling with every hue of green you could imagine filled the branches. Light emanated from the inside of every leaf, yielding a mysterious and mystical radiance that left the boys breathless. Never in their lives had they ever encountered such staggering majesty.
Sir Brian gave the boys some time for each to adjust to their surroundings and to the magnificence of the moment. Eventually he spoke, “Would you like to know exactly what it is, that you are looking at, my friends?”
Dale and Sean nodded silently, unable to find words to speak.
“This tree represents all the people of the Earth,” Sir Brian’s answer was completely unexpected.
“All the people of the Earth? That doesn’t make sense,” Dale interrupted. “It’s a tree!”
“Not everything is as it seems. As a matter of fact, nothing really ever is as it seems. What we see, and what we believe something to be, is only our own personal interpretation. What that something actually is, is always something very different,” Sir Brian instructed.
Both boys looked over at Sir Brian with hopeless expressions.
“I’m sorry,” Sir Brian smiled, “That really was part of a lesson that you will learn later on. Let me just try and explain what I meant about the tree, shall I?”
“Good plan,” Sean said, “This is hard enough just going one step at a time.”
“Alright,” Sir Brian promised, “We’ll stick to the lesson at hand. What you are seeing in front of you could be used as a picture or symbol, of humanity, of all the people of the world. Look at each leaf as if it was one single person. Then look at each twig, with just a few leaves on it as, well, perhaps as one city, province, or state. Then you could look at each larger branch as one country. The whole tree then becomes all the people of the earth.”
“OK,” Sean agreed, “that makes more sense. So you’re not saying this tree is all the people of the world, you’re just saying it could be used as an example of the way . . . of the way . . . “
“You’re on the right track,” Sir Brian agreed. “This tree is an example of the way all the people of the world are connected. People aren’t really separate from each other, even though it may look like they are, the same way that it looks like there are individual leaves on this tree. But if you look at the whole tree, you will see that every leaf, twig, and branch is really part of one object. All of it is ‘tree’. What if one twig was to become diseased? All the leaves on that twig would eventually die, wouldn’t they?”
“Yeah, and then probably that twig would make the rest of the branch sick, and it would die too,” Dale added. “And then if one branch . . . well, the whole tree could die from just one twig being diseased, couldn’t it?”
“It’s quite possible,” Sir Brian agreed. “So, what is this telling us about all of us? What is this telling you about your life?”
Sean piped up, “Let me try this one. What would happen if one leaf started to attack another leaf? Or one branch started to kill another branch? Wouldn’t the whole tree suffer? How stupid would that be, for one branch to try to destroy another branch.”
“Why would that be stupid?” Sir Brian questioned.
“Well, isn’t it obvious?” Sean asked.
“It’s obvious to me, but I want to know if it’s obvious to you.”
“It would be stupid because, well, because the whole tree would suffer and die.”
Sir Brian pushed forward, “But what if one leaf, or one branch, didn’t know it was part of a whole tree? What if it really believed it was only a leaf, separate from all the other leaves, twigs, and branches? What if one branch was diseased and another branch thought it should protect itself? Maybe it would feel it needed to attack that branch to save itself. Or, what if one branch didn’t like the way another branch looked, so it wanted to get rid of it?”
“What you’re saying then,” Dale jumped in, “is that we are only mean to each other, because we don’t know that we’re not separate from other people. If we knew we were connected, and if we knew that hurting another person is the same as hurting ourselves, then we wouldn’t hurt each other anymore.”
So what do you think?
Could there be some truth to this?
If this was true
and you knew in your heart that it was true
Would it change the way you
live your life?
watch revenge based movies?
look at people as you walk down the hallway at school?
look at people?
look at the class bully?
feel as you push your way through a crowd of people?
look at the class victim?
feel as you walk past a person living on the street?
watch reality TV?
watch the news?
feel as you pass a drunk passed out in an alley?
What responsibility do you think you might have toward people if they are all branches, twigs, and leaves on your tree?
Try this experiment:
Look at the people in your life as a part of yourself – as if there is no division between you and those people. Pretend you are connected invisibly and everything you feel, they feel, and everything they feel, you feel. Would this change the way you speak and act toward people? Would it change the way you:
- live your life?
- look at people?
- watch reality TV?
- watch revenge based movies?
- look at the class bully?
- look at the class victim?
- watch the news?
- look at people as you walk down the hallway at school?
- feel as you push your way through a crowd of people?
- feel as you walk past a person living on the street?
- feel as you pass a drunk passed out in an alley?
Create your own path
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