Tuesday, October 25, 2016

all is in an enormous dark

We are speeding--a verb used generously here-- through the trees that hem the South Shore line to Chicago. We glide past the glimmering reeds and shining ripples of Hudson Lake. The trees shimmer above the sky-clear water. The first strains of Familiarity play on Pawel's iPad. I smile. This is autumn.

October in Indiana is finally cashing in on its beauty. Cows wade through lush green, dark muds, and hearty wheats. The cornfields in Amish country are a husky burnt gold, the sunlight is more robust and brilliant, flashing off the golden, scarlet leaves. The forests are full of dying sunlight, outlining their slender, shimmering trunks. A few trees burst through the yellow golds with bold crimson-tipped leaves.

I am slightly annoyed, harsh critic as I am, that all of the trees are not turning into watercolors at the same time. I wish that all the leaves would turn their autumnal colors at once; I want a symphony of beauty, not just grace notes. I want a uniform response to the change in season from the trees.


Sitting at lunch with a friend, we discussed the peculiar phenomenon of human narratives. How is it that two humans can have two completely different stories for the same series of events? How is it that two people who shared a common journey can interpret that journey so differently? It is very odd, but only natural. No two human beings are going to respond to a situation exactly the same, just as no two trees responds to autumn exactly the same.

Like the trees, humans are arrested in various stages of growth; of coming to fruition. Their display of fruit is never going to be identical. As a narrative comes to a defining moment, one of the messy things about these crossroads is that it becomes apparent that these two human beings are operating in different seasons. Watersheds and crises reveal interiors that the quotidian course of life is designed to conceal. 

Like the trees, humans are not programmed like robots, to respond to stimuli according to a developer's code. Humans and trees respond to the events of nature in a variety of ways, and their eloquent, polyvalent responses are recorded in their leaves and in their narratives. How much richer our experience of the world is, knowing that there are many different versions of our stories out there. And all of them somehow lead to the full Truth, capital T.

I can no more force another human being to see a story from my point of view than I can force the trees to change. That is both infuriating and liberating. Infuriating, because of all the breath we waste trying to get others to see things from our point of view. But liberating. Once we have finally exhausted all our hot air and breathe in once again, we are free from the task of trying to turn the leaves to scarlet before they're ready. We can simply continue on with our own story, and leave the other trees to sort themselves out.

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