Throughout much of my life, I paid little attention to the miracles that surrounded me. I was too busy thinking about business and money … too busy being annoyed by annoying people … too busy being too busy. I had no time to think about the realworld — the one that actually matters.
Nature and I were complete strangers, but things change in everyone’s life. Who would have thought that some of my best friends would end up being trees? I know that people often say a dog is man’s best friend — and I like dogs, so long as someone else feeds them, walks them, and … well … does all the rest of the stuff that goes along with having a dog as your best friend.
What I like about trees is that they take care of themselves. And, unlike dogs, they usually outlive you. My favorite trees are the seventy-five or so that jut out from the back left corner of my house at a 45-degree angle, like a perfectly drilled platoon. I visit my leafy pals — who shield me from the outside world — just about every day. In the slightest breeze, they whisper their secrets to me.
This past weekend, my trees were having a special evening. Their leaves were turning multi-shades of gold, brown, and reddish-purple. There was a bit of a chill in the air, and it was as though they were letting me know they were about to pack it in for the winter.
On this fine evening, Ravel’s “Bolero” felt right. I hadn’t played that CD for more than a year, but for some reason my hand pulled it off the shelf. As I watched my trees and listened to the music, I thought about my best friends — whispering to me through their fluttering leaves — with Ravel’s “Bolero” capturing their message symphonically.
They say that when the days grow shorter, the change of color is nature’s way of telling them to begin preparing for their long winter’s sleep. With less and less water and sunlight for photosynthesis to occur, the fall colors, previously hidden by the leaves’ green chlorophyll, come to the fore and have the opportunity to show off their beauty.
Soon, I thought to myself, most of the trees will be bare and their appearance will once again be somber. Happily, they are reborn every spring, live life to the fullest in the summer, enter the twilight of their lives in the fall … then, finally, seemingly die in the winter. But not really. In truth, they just hibernate. It’s more like recycling than death.
Death is but an illusion. And not just for trees in the winter. When a human being dies, he, too, is recycled. Not one atom of his body is lost. They are simply rearranged when the soul moves on. How are they rearranged? It’s not our job to figure that out. The Conscious Universal Power Source has it covered.
As I thought about all this, my mind drifted back to a scene from a classic film, Cool Hand Luke. Paul Newman’s character, Luke, had escaped from a prison chain gang earlier in the day, and a posse was closing in on him. He takes refuge in an old abandoned church and begins talking to God about what a hard case he’s been all his life.
Finally, he gets down on his knees and asks God what he should do. Just then, his fellow escapee, Dragline (George Kennedy), bursts in the side door and frantically warns him that the police are outside. Whereupon Luke, displaying that classic Newman grin, looks up at the ceiling and says, “Is that your answer, Old Man? You’re a hard case too, ain’t you?”
I’ve thought about that scene many times over the years, because the truth is that none of us has a clue about what the “Old Man” has in store for us, and it seems to me that it takes a great deal of arrogance to claim otherwise.
I often wonder if the world — and its buffet of insane events — is nothing more than a gigantic hoax nature has played on us. I’m talking about the world we spend most of our time focusing on — the world of television pundits who spew out the same clichés day after day … politicians who offer to give us more of our neighbor’s wealth if we will just agree to give them more power over our lives … multi-millionaire athletes who lead us to believe that their triumphs will somehow make our own puny lives more worthy and fulfilling … nonsense and illusions that must surely cause nature to smile at us condescendingly.
In my heart of hearts, I believe that what we normally think of as the real world isn’t real at all. It’s as though we’re children acting out a play on a spherical stage spinning around in space.
But the trees — and everything else we call “nature” — perhaps they know the answers to all the questions whirling around in our heads: How did we get here? Why are we here? Where are we going? The fact is that we just don’t know. Walt Whitman may have come up with an answer that transcends all others when he wrote, in his poem “Miracles,” “To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, every cubic inch of space is a miracle.”
If you’d like to ease the chains of daily life, I highly recommend that you start taking a closer look at the miracles that surround you — miracles that make up the real world — and spend less time thinking about the shallow, insane world that most of the human race mistakenly believes is real.