December 20, 2013 admin

One decision

I’ve always loved the trees in winter, their branches reaching into the mist, the glimmering of the damp against the bark, though it’s terrible for the woodpeckers when there’s a long freeze and ice seals the access to their food.
Actually, I love trees in every season. The movement of the invisible sap is like the living God silently flowing through all things. Sometimes one can feel it speaking, without words but audible, palpable to the heart. That’s why there are so many people who simply like to stand and listen among the trees. Each one, especially the old trees, tall and deeply rooted, might be, or maybe really is, the tree of life.
That tree has its roots in heaven, teaches the Zohar, and its gardener is eternal life itself:
         This world to come cares for this tree all the time, watering it and preparing it through its work, crowning it with crowns, never at any time withholding its streams….(Zohar III 239a –b)
To the mystics, that tree nourishes all the earth.
In life one really has just one decision, a decision beyond or within all the small decisions which busy one’s every day, like what to eat and where to go and who to call and what to do and to which charities to give money. It’s a decision one has never finally or irrevocable made, because one’s bound up with it all one’s life long, and the options repeat themselves again and again in all life’s changing circumstances, fortune and misfortune, health and illness, mortality and joy. It’s the decision to be on the side of life.
Sometimes this decision calls for singing and celebration; sometimes the deepest silence is not deep enough to intuit the unspoken flow of life’s currents in the heart. People live their decision in innumerable different ways; by becoming a care-worker, or a teacher; by creating a hospitable home, whether it has one room or ten; by trying as often as possible to offer a kind word. Some people show immense courage, like doctors working in Syria, and aid workers among refugees; some people express, year in, year out, that ordinary kindness without which the world would be dismal, a smile at the counter, helping the children over the road.
But there is something all this has in common: the understanding that there is no living being that is not part of life’s sacred tree; no person, whether he or she belongs to a group we know or don’t know, whether he or she carries the label of enemy or friend; no animal, no bird, not even a branch or flower which one is entitled simply to hurt for hurt’s sake, or out of carelessness crush.
The mystics had a strange phrase to describe sin, or at any rate the one great sin which they felt mattered most: kotsets banetiyot, breaking the growing shoots, as if to say ‘this person or creature isn’t part of life’s tree’. It’s a phrase which makes sense to any gardener, and we are all the gardeners of that tree of life.
One doesn’t go through life breaking nothing; that’s just too much to ask. Sometimes, or perhaps always, it’s really oneself which one breaks off. One can’t always help it; life is also cruel and harsh. One struggles, depressed and feeling as if one’s lost one’s purpose, until one finds that, no, in the heart of hearts one is still connected to the tree.
The spirit flows back and one thinks once again, ‘Life, precious and wonderful life’.
I love the trees in winter, and at any season.

Get in touch...