Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Saith the Tree?

Over one year ago, we planted a one foot high shore pine in our back yard. It's grown, at least, two feet in its first year. However, of all the trees behind our house -- there are hundreds of them! -- it's teeny weenie. I often wonder if it looks up at the majestic pines, cedars and spruces to think, "Hey, one day I may be that big!"

I don't mean this in an anthropomorphic way. We humans have a tendency to ascribe human characteristics to non-human beings (e.g., pets, God, etc.). But I believe that all entities have a form of consciousness.

For quite a long time, we thought ONLY humans possessed consciousness; this is what separated us from everything else. Recently, it's been hypothesized that apes have consciousness too. Who knows? Maybe science will one day show that all animals possess a form of consciousness.

My belief is not based on science per se. I reason that, since I have consciousness and I am part of this experience called life, it only stands to reason that everything else is conscious of its own being. Rocks, slugs, wolves and tulips probably don't recognize their own consciousness in the form of expressive language and thought, but that shouldn't mean it doesn't feel alive and part of the tapestry in some sense.

For me, consciousness is awareness. I think it would illustrate extreme egoism at its most absolute if I thought I had a sense of self that no other being possesses.

One little tree amongst giants.


  1. Your post made me laugh. My daughter and I collected rocks today. (She is two.) She likes the smooth ones. I wonder: do the rocks somehow sense that they're now in a doll house? Anyway, nice post Taoist, you keep me thinking.

  2. I think that anything with a brain can have consciousness; I don't think plants have that as we would know it. They might have something, but I don't think they "think".

    I read recently that Dogs have feelings at about the same level as a 2 and a half year old child. The only thing they lack is guilt and contempt. You may think your dog looks guilty, but that's more the fear of being disciplined, not guilt.

    So I know my Dog loves me and I'm happy he doesn't have to deal with guilt or contempt, to me he is blessed in that respect :)

    I watched a show about a ranch/sanctuary for Elephants. One was rather old and slightly crippled and had been there awhile. They brought a new Elephant to the ranch and they put these two in the same barn, thinking they would slowly introduce them. Well they went nuts, they were reaching and hollering and crying.

    The people who run the ranch saw that this wasn’t anger or anything like that; they were trying to get to each other desperately. The opened the gates and they rushed to each other, and they touched each other all over and caressed each other. You could see how happy they were to be together, it was obvious to everyone, they knew each other in a very intimate way.

    They looked over the paperwork of these two elephants, and they found out that when they were very young, they were together. They were long lost sisters and that was why they acted in such a dramatic way. They had been reunited after about 30 years of being apart and now they do not leave each others sides for a moment. The healthier one watches over her sister with a constant comforting presence. I can not imagine how comforting it must be to this elephant that had obviously been abused. Now she will live out her life filled with the love of her sister and to me that is just breathtaking.

    If that isn’t proof of consciousness and emotion, I don’t know what is, but it was one of the most beautiful stories I have ever seen and one I will never forget.


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