Zen Leaf

Nature is often associated with the poetic, the timeless, universal. The atomists of ancient Greece believes in nature to be the fundamental source of life, and even more, that nature could be broken down into its components. Through solemn investigation and study, the relation of one natural phenomenon to another might engender a sort of wholeness to the human being, as if the human being weren’t whole already. The incisive mentality of these proto-scientists began the branch of human thought we know today as reductionism. The immense power of scientific reductionism has provided humanity the blessings of medical science, technology, space travel, and the like. It would be foolish to take for granted the wealth of pleasure and convenience made possible by centuries of men and women fervently at work in their laboratories. However, there is one major fault to the philosophy of life taken on by the reductionist mentality – something these scientists must look for elsewhere if they ever feel the urge to seek at all.

Connection is the elusive ingredient which escapes the grasp of any individual looking for life in a petri dish. The lack of connection keeps the scientists hungry for an ever-increasing level of complex research – and maybe reaching out to religion. Connection is the central tenet of the opposing school of thought in Greece at the time, that is Pantheism. These pagan philosophers acknowledged the universe could be parsed, split, dismembered and analyzed, but to my mind went one step further, or rather, took one step back. The concept of interconnectedness is only a point of debate until the message is made clear that the individual human being is unrelentingly linked to all else in the universe. Not only is human participation integral to our view of nature, but nature itself is astoundingly interdependent if only we take the time to look.

The German philosopher Hegel wrote that thought is dependent upon language, that is, the human mind cannot conceive without the words to describe what it conceives. This seems simple enough until you try for yourself, the mental phenomena in question is Perception, not Conception. Perceiving the indescribable is a very easy task with the help of imagination.

I sit on a brick garden planter breathing the air and spot a single leaf on a tree uniquely positioned with the sun creating a translucent green flare of light at its edges. I perceive the incredible value the single leaf provides the tree, and in turn, the tree provides for the leaf. The radiant Sun beams into the Earth’s atmosphere, is filtered, and finds its way onto a single leaf. That leaf has millions of years of evolution, which taught it well how to translate the warmth of light into sustenance for the tree. The energy shifts the molecules else ever so slightly, but just enough to create a single carbon atom. This is the gift of the leaf to the tree. As a friendly return favor, the tree absorbs moisture from the roots through capillary microfilaments reaching all the way to the leaf, sustaining its life. This is the gift of the tree to the leaf.

This beautiful interaction, which really needs no words to describe, completely amazes the mind as we still cannot conceive of its purpose. The overwhelmingly reductionist society we live in can conceive of the component science, but cannot even fathom the perceived beauty. What is the purpose of a tree? Is it not simply for the sake of connection?

 

JME

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