The Oak

This our creation myth shall surely sound as feeble, but let it. It bears to us the same relation theirs did to them. So what if we could fly forever towards the light of reason? One inch from where our roots come out our feathers burn. The heights of the sky are never more than an inch from the seas. (The divers in the deep are happier than we, who fly up high.)

This is the moment through which we are fashioned, this the inshining of reason, or as the crows call out, the divine. Who ever knew the two were one? How truly, that is, with how much cause did they know it? Seek them out and listen.

Like a tree taken by any node as the root, the rest dangling down, so does the whole tree hang lopsided like a marionet limp. The root was never in space, nor in time, nor anywhere in spacetime, although places in spacetime look very much like the root, when seen a certain way. One such place will be your mind, if you really find the way. And from this root flows the dao, flows mercy, flows justice, flows music, flows beauty, and all the names we give it.

Nature flowed more directly from it than did we, in space and time, and so we must emulate her in every respect until we understand, that is, send down our own roots to the bedrock below nature. Even then we must remember, always remember, that our roots in space and time run only as deep as nature, no, only as deep as flesh: This ape you will be, until and unless you find, by rational, physical means, some way to be something else.

And it is infinite, transfinite, sublime, this root of being, and in its presence one day is as a thousand years: but it is not only a root, and the entropy of it burns all things away. Get no closer to it than you must. Stay far away, if there is an indirect source, judging always the quality of the source, ready to move to another. No matter how well you fly, it will burn you. No matter how much it loves you as its conduit, it will flood you.

Does this sound like what the ancients said? They knew it. They expressed it many ways. In some ways they are like the planets to us, or the stars: Distant, so we need to judge how far they are and how bright; Immense but featureless, great in what they reached but inexact, that is, rooted in sandy soil.

Our soil is rich with the immense loam of ancient oaks. It nourishes us. We can grow, grow higher than they ever did -- and deeper too, down to the rock. And when the whirlwhinds come in up high, the rock will hold us firm, so long as we do not snap in the middle.

 

Like a cup overflowing, build up the walls, show the water its error: Hold it in. You think if you dig deep roots you will never soar again. Nonsense. Remember the heights, even scout from time to time (if you know how) but grow down deep and you will grow high. You will not get high, anymore, the ways you did, but you will be tall. Your leaves will whip around for ever in the upper air that thrilled you when you were weak.

You will prepare your witicism and your aphorism and find, with horror, that it was said already. Good! Then someone is ready to hear you, another lonely oak waiting for a friend in this forest! Good! You are not growing in vain! You are no longer drifting like a seed on a breeze. You have rooted. Remember the old currents, and grow there again. The seed got high. You get tall.

The soil shifts. You have grown too great for it. Use the force of the upper air, use the light of the sun, to grow your roots down deeper. Find the cracks. Find your way like mycelium through the dark places of the earth, nestled down among the sciences, among the slow and steady thinkers, in common sense and simple parlance. You never will know when the rock you settled on will shift, and then you will know that it was a loose rock, rock, yes, but loose: And what you thought was true of rock is true of some other rock. Do not fear. Grow down, grow out, grow up, as fast as you can: Strike earth again. Grow deeper. Grow greater.

For unlike an oak, which grows up once, you will grow up many ways forever. You will not grow forever in one way, as you once thought you would. You will grow forever in many ways. You will take on the animal nature, the mechanical nature, the hardness of diamond and the suppleness of silk, the restlessness of a hunter, the longing of the heart for all that will be lost -- you will take it on and grow greater yet.

And if, one day, you grow as great as you can grow, and great as many ways, you will rest there and finally understand what the lesser oaks told you. This will be your last lesson: That there is, for every seed, a great enough, a resting place. And you will not fear the first ground, anymore, the first bedrock any human struck: You will not fear death, nor even despise it.

If you grow up in sandy soil you will grow shallow and be uprooted. When you land and root again, if you are so lucky, remember that you were rooted once, and learn the urgency with which you must grow.

But grow down while you grow up. Not into evil, which is into error; not by letting your roots rot, or letting go of the earth for long. But into the rich loam of tradition, the collected works, the immediate experience of your senses, the things fools find funny, the working of the body, both in the natural history of our scientists and the immediate enjoyment (or disgust) with the thing itself.

And never forget the mystery, which is reason pressing itself into the world through you, binding the world up like so much thread. This is pleasure. This is consciousness. This is the thing looking through the fractal lens of a shattered world, the craftsman thinking how to make a thing beautiful that was made ugly, how to make the most of the wood shavings on his floor or shards of glass from a broken vase.

And it will be a more beautiful thing than has ever been. And its fractal lens will show all the uglier things as smaller, simpler, or older; they will be diminished in perspective just as we hope they will be diminished in their own accord, that when they finally join with us (if they have been split) they will not have been the raging rivers we thought they were. They will have been trickles. They will have been drips.

Reason itself will mourn the many ways it rushed in too fast, the way it rushes in too fast and burns mad minds, or in too fast and sets the stars aflame, or sloshes off and lands where there should have been darkness forever, things that are ugly to make, that once made have to be picked up and remade too (which work this artisan, this reason, will carry out when there is finally time.)

Sometimes an unlucky one falls from a tree, having grown there, a branch itself (from old blood, like an aristocrat, a long distinguished line, or an academic whose advisor's advisor was someone too), or once rooted on a branch (in a tradition, a society, a religion that flourished but, like a mother log, now nourishes others)

So root yourself in your senses. Root yourself in your action. Root yourself in friends, family, societies, lands, and peoples. Root yourself in the many things your brain can do, and in the certainty of your body (which is as totally certain to you as truth is: when it dies you die, so to you it always and forever is)

What you think is flight is only suspension by a filament you cannot see; you cannot see it, or it cannot be seen, because it runs into the substance, into matter or into spacetime or into entropy itself. Do not be so proud. Only bring back those filaments to earth, and grow up along them, first like a grape, and then like an oak.

Every part of you, if you give it time, can come along.