the tree doesn't care what you call it.
If I think too much on it, I get hung up on the weirdness of existing. Not just existing, but existing as a singular solid within a cosmic serving platter of other singular solids. You are every bit as planted in your experience – your runny nose and grinding knee cartilage, the argument you just had with your older brother, the dog barking outside – as I am in my failing eyesight and the bug bite on my right arm, the sound of my son shifting in his bed, the cat meowing because he forgot I already fed him.
What’s weird to me is how impossible it is to escape our own experiences. I don’t mean impossible to escape our external conditions or environments. I don’t even mean that it’s impossible to change or manage our thought habits. I mean: We can’t escape our containers. Even when we run. We like to talk about running from things or to things. But it doesn’t matter if we’re running away or toward or at all; it’s still just us… running (or not running). “Wherever you go, there you are.” For all of the rest of our days and hours and minutes and seconds.
Or maybe we’re islands.
If we’re islands, I can’t really visit yours, can I? I can float by and wave. I can take inventory of the vegetation as I see it. But I’ll never really know what the sand feels like or what it’s like to live there. I’ll never know what my island or any islands or the sky or the sun looks like from yours.
Is that weird to you? Or am I just making it unnecessarily weird? It’s only weird when you look at it for too long. Like saying an ordinary word so many times in a row that it becomes foreign and unpronounceable.
I once read that our struggle with learning a new language is not that we can’t pronounce the sounds, but that we cannot hear them correctly. I wonder if that’s why it’s so hard to understand each other sometimes. Too much fog in the archipelago, inability to escape the din of our containers, and we can’t hear each other properly.
This morning I was journaling, and I tried to remember the last time I wrote something other than a journal entry, an email, or an educational evaluation report. I couldn’t. So I wrote: “What are you even doing?" Then I wrote, "Write. Right now.”
And here I am. Right now.
Russ and I, over a recent dinner on a patio, tried to identify a tree. He even had a tree identification catalog in his truck. But unless you already have a general idea of what you’re looking at, or the characteristics are truly stand-out (like shag bark), a tree identification catalog is kind of useless. The differences are too minute. Any given tree could be 38 different things.
We gave up, and I said, “The tree doesn’t care what we call it.” I assume that is so.
In my favorite Ted Talk of all time, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist who had a stroke, explained what it was like to lose the language house in her brain and the part of her mind that defined her separateness from everything around her. She called it euphoria. Without it, she felt expansive and in union with her environment. She argues that we can intentionally shift our consciousness to the same expansiveness and that by doing so, we’d become more loving and peaceful.
Do you suppose that’s true? And can we do it without hallucinogenics or a medical emergency? I would like to think so. I hope it is a fine enough start to think on it.
Anyway, now I have written.