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  • Rhonda Smith

Trees and Organic Life on Earth - 2

How Trees Fulfill Their Roles and Humans Do Not



“All the birds and creatures of the world are unutterably themselves.

Everything is waiting for you.”*

David Whyte

 

“But His creations -- in this case people -- must not abuse

this All-Gracious and Everywhere-Penetrating Goodness of His;

they must not only care for,

but even maintain, all He has created.”**

G. I. Gurdjieff

 



Trees play a specific and essential role in the organic life of earth
Photograph by Zetong Li

Let’s look at one of the ways a tree species fulfills its role in organic life on earth.


Ben Rawlence writes:


"Monoterpenes are volatile organic chemicals produced by pines that the trees use to send signals to each other, to deter herbivores or insects, or to coordinate seed release; (they) carry pine scent and bounce sunlight back into space. When the pines are metabolizing sunlight, there can be as many as one to two thousand particles per cubic centimeter (italics mine) in the air around the tree, reducing the amount of solar radiation hitting the earth.

 

"Via the density of the chemical signal and the availability of light, they can detect the presence of other trees. In fact, they see space in polygons, growing away from their neighbors and toward the light, creating a five-sided tessellation in the canopy that is the basis of self-organization in the forest. (Research of two Siberian scientists, Vladimir L. Garikov and Pavel Grabnik).

 

“Through the structure of their cells, trees can capture reverberations and ‘hear’ sounds around them as well as ultrasound far away.” (1) A Scots pine’s cones go through three years of stages to mature and open, releasing a seed that will be another tree or food for squirrels (a red squirrel needs 2½ acres of trees for its survival), birds, rodents, and insects. The original pollination that creates these cones is an event of mass release synchronized with other pines as far as two hundred miles away. (2) Here is a species of complex composition and capacities that adapts to conditions. Furthermore, recent scientific research has shown the cooperative exchanges amongst trees to “make” a forest.

 

Susan Simard is a forest ecologist and the author in 2021 of Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. One of Simard’s jobs was to measure the success of replanting forests in the Canadian northwest that had been clear-cut. At the time, the custom prevailed of planting a monoculture so as to eliminate competition from other trees, but the success rate of regrowth was dismal. We humans imposed our monetized notions without observing how healthy forests thrived. Later one of Simard’s early experiments as a scientist was to feed Douglas fir and neighboring paper birch different isotopes to see if those from one species would travel to the other. There was a control tree which did not share the fir/birch mycorrhizal network. Over two years she found that the fir and birch, previously thought a useless weed tree, exchanged sugars; the birch even fed the fir more sugars, its surplus, particularly when a fir was under shade and had less photosynthesizing capacity.

 

" ... a forest, so necessary to the planet’s right functioning, is a system of vital vibrations. We cannot say finer or coarser; we can say that each tree species fills its particular role."

We could say, from these examples, that a forest, so necessary to the planet’s right functioning, is a system of vital vibrations. We cannot say finer or coarser; we can say that each tree species fills its particular role. But due to our interference, boreal forest trees are moving northward, resulting in a warmed permafrost. It is like a childhood nightmare in which formerly motionless beings rally to go on a secret march but will soon run out of territory. Such changes over millennia have occurred among all species, but now we have to look to ourselves as the cause.


To look at the human’s role in planetary health we return to a passage of Gurdjieff’s from All and Everything:


“It is most wisely foreseen by Him that Nature should adapt the difference of exterior form of beings in accordance with those conditions and circumstances under which the process of existence of various forms of life are pre-ordained to flow …

 

“Even as regards this own-donkey of yours, you abuse the possibilities given you by our Common Creator since if this donkey is now compelled to stand unwillingly in your stable, it does so only because it is created two-brained; and this again is because such an organization of the whole of its presence is necessary for the common-cosmic existence upon planets.

 

“And therefore, according to law, there is absent from the presence of your donkey the possibility of logical mentation and consequently, according to law, he must be what you call ‘senseless,’ or ‘stupid.’

 

“Although you were created for the purpose of the common-cosmic existence on planets, and although you were created also as a ‘field-of-hope’ for the future expectations of our Common All-Gracious Creator -- that is to say, created with the possibilities of coating in your presence that ‘Higher-Sacred’ for the possible arising of which the whole of our now existing World was just created -- and in spite of the said possibilities given to you … having been created three-brained with possibilities of logical mentation, yet you do not use this sacred property of yours for the purpose for which it was foreordained, but manifest it as ‘cunning’ toward His other creatures, as, for instance, towards your own-donkey.

 

“Apart from the possibilities present in you of consciously coating in your presence the mentioned Higher-Sacred, this donkey of yours is of the same value for the common-cosmic process and consequently for our Common Creator, as you yourself, since each of you is predestined for some definite purpose and these distinct definite purposes, in their totality, actualize the sense of Everything Existing.” (3)


"... you take only what is necessary from nature, never a surplus. It is the exact opposite of the modern idea of sustainability."

 

Here Gurdjieff indicates we are equal in value only to the donkey. We do not fill our predestination as a “field of hope.” We have not leapt to our scale; we are here with the resigned donkey and the energetic, struggling trees. It is a poignant picture. Gurdjieff indicates in the chapter “The Relative Understanding of Time” in All and Everything that Great Nature has had to adapt human life to produce, as one- and two-brained beings do, a quantity and quality of vibrations needed for this reciprocal feeding process of the Universe. This is hard to relate to ourselves, our personal world; our understanding does not include the scale of the Universe, or even Great Nature, or that what we produce in our own vibrations (probably more often than not, cloudy) matters. Were we to find kindness towards one- and two-brained beings, would that count in our scaling up, our destiny? And if so, then probably we would want to quantify: “How much would it count?” But certainly, this better behavior, if genuine, would come within Gurdjieff’s code.


Trees fulfill their roles in organic life on earth.
Trees. Photo by Marcus Murphy.

He speaks often of instincts. There is the instinct that belongs to the moving or physical center, and is involuntary. Then there is in us another level of instinct, underpinning the moving, feeling, and thinking centers, acting both as a pull and a push. It does not make itself known in verbal language. It is closely aligned with the feeling center and common sense. We may not be able to say it is one thing. For instance, how do we explain this movement into the unknown, towards exploration, out towards the mystery of life. Instinct? This is a pulling action, a call of the cosmos to our inner life. This is correspondence.  But there is also the stab of feeling and conscience, so seldom experienced or not for long duration, when we have transgressed on another’s life, be it plant, animal, or human. It is a movement down and in. This is instinctive shame, when we have not shown respect and sympathy, again instinctively, to all beings. (4) Whenever we see clear-cutting of a forest, there is opportunity for instinctive shame.


There is the instinct that belongs to the moving or physical center, and is involuntary. Then there is in us another level of instinct, underpinning the moving, feeling, and thinking centers, acting both as a pull and a push. It does not make itself known in verbal language. It is closely aligned with the feeling center and common sense.

 

In Treeline, Ben Rawlence travels to the Nordic Arctic to meet with the Sami people. He relates a conversation with a woman, Maret. She says, “As a human, you are not allowed to destroy the food or habitat of other animals. You take only what you need because you are not alone. This is the Sami concept of sufficiency called birgejupmi: you take only what is necessary from nature, never a surplus.Rawlence says, “It is the exact opposite of the modern idea of sustainability, which is based on the maximum surplus that can be extracted without destroying nature’s capacity to sustain the resource.”

 

For the Sami, birgejupmi is not only a practical guide; it is a deeply felt code of behavior. (5) This view of Ben Rawlence’s on sustainable actions is radical: to use Gurdjieff’s old-fashioned term, it is humans wiseacrering, creating an irrevocable interference in the name of brilliant ideas that deepens human’s abnormal conditions of life. But what can we find in ourselves?

 

The conscious love motive, in its developed state, is the wish that the object should arrive at its own native perfection, regardless of the consequences to the lover.

Love, in its objective form, for nature? As A. R. Orage relates to us of a conversation with Gurdjieff about love, he writes:

 

“In short, Man has a personal use for the domesticated horse and the cultivated fruit; and his labour upon them cannot be said to be for love alone. The conscious love motive, in its developed state, is the wish that the object should arrive at its own native perfection, regardless of the consequences to the lover. 'So she becomes perfectly herself, what matter I?' says the conscious lover. 'I will go to hell if only she may go to heaven'. And the paradox of the attitude is that such love always evokes a similar attitude in its object. Conscious love begets conscious love. It is rare among humans…”. (6)

 

 

_____________

* Whyte, David, “Everything Is Waiting for You,” 2020

198-199

 

1 Rawlence, Ben, The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth, 21-22

2 Rawlence, 31

3 Gurdjieff, 137

4 Gurdjieff, 878

5 Rawlence, 74

6 Orage, A.R., On Love, 1974, American edition, 8-9

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