It is not slender, it is not pretty (to some), it is not straight or elegant or young. It is in fact old, gnarled and mishapen. It has obviously survived fires, storms, wind damage, dry spells and more. Yet it is captivating for the real life it offers. As with any tree it offers me the Co2 – O2 exchange that is vital to my very breath. It provides shade for the understory and any creature that passes by. Many living things exist in its bark, or depend on its leaves, transpiration, or shed detritus that helps form the humous at its base. Its blossom is a source of nectar for indigenous bees as well as European honey bees, and for a variety of insects. Its seed provides new life and is a food source too. Probably the fact that it is so gnarly has saved it from the tree fellers over the past four decades, so it is a survivor. Which just goes to show that looks aren’t everything. I was captivated by it. It is striking by comparison, and stands out in the forest of straight and elegant comapnions.
Back in 1980, the story of Joseph Merrick resurfaced through a movie made by David Lynch, called the “Elephant Man.” It had little chance of being uplifting, it was in fact, deeply saddening. Merrick died at 27 due to compications of his body weight to head weight ratio. I left the movie feeling quite heavy, mostly because of the lack of knowledge then to help him adapt to a better to life, and also because of how some in society treated him. Merrick was a real person, but not everyone treated him as such.
Scroll forward to another movie in 2001, “Shallow Hal” by the Farrelly Brothers. It was a comedy, but a very real look into the real potential for humanity to be superficial and shallow in regard to relationships. It had a manufactured ending, it was after all a work of fiction, so it ended well. But it resonated for me in my experiences of people who only see the surface of anything or anyone. But in reality, as we develop in life, we are all faced with the moment of choice – are relationships merely about taking, or are they mutual? The latter, of course, relies on our wholeness and our ability to see beyond self.
I am captivated by the life force and life giving capacity of the gnarled old tree. I was captivated by the story of Joseph Merrick and his struggle in the sea of human indifference, a short life that, perhaps, only pointed to the need for a better way, but that was something. And I was captivated by the desire of the makers of Shallow Hal to make the movie resolve in favour of true love, honesty, and integrity (but then, it is a hollywood production) in a world where, sometimes, the complete opposite is true in relationships.
My hope, dream, is that we will all be captivated by the real self in relation to other real selves, that we are not blindly becoming consumers of other people, that we’re not just in some symbiotic dependency, but rather in mutual and interdependent relationships that share values and dreams, love, compassion, and hope ….
In a time when our fellow life forms need advocacy, when sexual identity has become a battle ground, when class remains and economic injustice, and where wealth remains an obscenity, and where leadership has become a vacuous celebrity circus, we need the real.
I’m captivated by the potential of all forms of life, in particular, by the potential of humanity to excell and rise above shallow and look deeply inside to see the true beauty of all living things. Imagine.