“Trees were the temples of the gods, and, following old established ritual, country places even now dedicate an outstandingly tall tree to a god.”
Pliny the Elder, Natural History
What we find in the news and social media tends to frame much of what we think about throughout the day. This calls for a consideration of our daily thought patterns.
We rational animals are always thinking about something or other. But just what we think about—and in what mode and unto what end—can vary dramatically. As individuals and even as a society we might become very narrow in our focus. We might become fixated on certain things and then spend much time thinking—and perhaps worrying—about these, to the exclusion of other things.
There are of course practical things that require our attention, research, and deliberation. And we certainly should not hide from the pressing matters that need to be faced.
Nonetheless, I think our contemporary habit now tends toward obsessive attention to certain matters—some of which rightly call for attention, others of which do not—to the practical exclusion of many other things: things that can and should give balance and context to the daily churning of our thoughts.
Tall trees are especially wondrous. Pliny’s account reports that many ancients associated them with the gods. It’s interesting to think about why. Somehow trees made people think of higher things—as though a tall tree pierced into a world above our own. Or rather, a tree embodied and signified the presence of something transcendent, yet very much of the earth, right here among us.
Trees speak of solidity and permanence. They speak of patience and endurance. They speak of the future and a hope. They speak of life, even amidst death.
Is this just an optimistic projection and/or a desperate seeking of refuge? I don’t think so. Trees are saying something to us. They always have been. We might not rightly hear what they are saying—that will take effort on our part. But I am absolutely convinced that today more than ever, we would do well to make space to leave behind the steady thrumming of news and media and refocus our attention.
It is a real step in restoring our health and inner peace to take the time to practice thinking about the trees.
Man of the Household Course opens for registration July 20. The course opens August 3. New improved and expanded course with flexibility to fit your schedule. Plan to sign up for the month of August. Going on vacation? No problem—you can skip a week or so with self-paced modules and ongoing live online Q & A opportunities. Stay tuned for more details.
Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) was a Roman naturalist and general. His Natural History is an important early work in natural science.
“…and this will be realized in their living together…” Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics For many of us the external constraint to remain at home has come to an end. A retrospective glance is perhaps in order. For a moment I am going to abstract from the surrounding…
“Reason my son Should choose himself a wife, but as good reason The father, all whose joy is nothing else But fair posterity, should hold some counsel In such a business.” Shakespeare, A Winter’s Tale [Polixenes, King of Bohemia, to his son.] How does one choose a…
“In all manual work we find the primal phenomenon of culture that is human but close to nature.” “The sphere in which we live is becoming more and more artificial, less and less human,” Romano Guardini, Letters from Lake Como We have lost something today, but we can…
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.