Have you ever seen something that caused your common sense to question your vision?
I remember, while working in Baltimore, driving along a street near the downtown area. There was an old dilapidated building, something I’d seen countless times before. But to my amazement, I saw a large tree limb protruding from a second floor window! I found it so hard to believe that I pulled my car over to take a closer look. As it turned out, my eyes had it right. There it was:
A tree with leaves on its limb, alive!
Surviving, in this unlivable building was a tree growing up through the foundation and through the second-floor window.
I haven’t given the sight of that tree any thought since the day I saw it — until yesterday morning.
Yesterday, I woke up and that tree was on my mind. As I slowly crawled out of bed, I could see that tree as a metaphor not only for my life but the lives of many others as well.
You see, as humans, we have the freedom to think, behave, speak and hear however we choose. Our senses may gather the same information as the next person, but how we interpret that information is wholly up to each of us.
- Some people will see, I’m stuck here in a condemned building, I have no hope for survival.
- Some will determine, I can’t remain here, I’ve got to extricate myself and find a place far more pleasant than this to survive.
- Some will ignore the place where their roots have sprouted and simply begin to grow; despite the external factors surrounding their life.
Some people feel so hopeless about their life that the thought of continuing to exist seems pointless. If you’ve ever known someone who committed suicide, you know the overwhelming depression that individual faced and possibly felt powerless to help.
Some people feel that all they need to do is improve the conditions of their life is to relocate to a more pleasant locale. If you grew up in a place where snow in April is commonplace, then you can relate to someone desiring a warmer climate.
Some people simply ignore where they are rooted; for them this is their place of normalcy.
I think about the person who spends the majority of his or her life incarcerated. When they are released they discover that the place of normalcy for them is behind bars; being told when to sleep, when to eat, when to exercise or when they have a visitor.
I think of the person who is addicted to drugs: their coping skills cannot handle whatever demons plague them. That person is forced to ignore the reality of life.
No matter how much I kick and scream about the realities of life, no matter how much I deny the realities of life, no matter where I physically relocate, the realities of my life remain with me.
I can deny the truth of life, but the reality of that truth will not accommodate my protests and denials.
My professional career has taken me to places I never imagined going as a child, but intellectually, my perspective has been shaped by the people and place I came from. For me there are and always have been fundamental truths which encompass my life. Some truths have caused me unpleasant experiences. The lessons learned from those experiences have taught me that truth is transcendent.
I have met those who promote or ascribe to a truth, but in the end it was merely a random set of thoughts someone liked and began to proclaim as truth. The marvelous thing about truth is that it is timeless. It cannot be erased, it cannot be revised, it cannot be exposed as false, it cannot be debated; except by foolish individuals who are blinded from truth by their arrogance and pride.
I don’t know what kind of tree I saw that day in Baltimore. It was a tree like any other tree, except it was thriving in a place that seemed unlivable.
Shakespeare said, “a rose is still a rose”, so maybe a tree is still a tree. A human is still a human, no matter how life has extruded and shaped them. We don’t all think the same. We certainly don’t all look the same. But the one characteristic we all possess is our humanity.
Those of us who’ve come from other parts of the world to this city known as Cuenca may choose to view the city and the people differently, but the truth speaks of our commonality; not our differences. Our differences only become valid when shaped by the truth.