My younger daughter, Dr. Christine Feldman-Barrett, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, recently wrote the following message on her Facebook page: “Friends: Today is a much better day already. Thanks for all the love and cheer yesterday. Nothing like an early-morning stroll through the suburban pastoral to get into better spirits. Happy Friday, everyone!” She headed the post with the lovely photo you’ll see at the end of this blog...
I usually respond to her FB posts with a few words of praise and thanks. This time I was moved to be a little more fulsome. Maybe it was the impact of the photo. Maybe it’s because we have another beautiful, cloud-free late-summer Colorado day (It’s September 1st as I write this reflection, the date of my older daughter Marianna’s 57th birthday.) Here’s what I wrote: “Trees, leafy ones, are symbols of reincarnation. They apparently die every winter, barren of leaves and flowers. Yet they are reborn, so to speak, every spring. And they stand tall throughout, taking in CO2, breathing out O2; providing shade in summer while asking nothing in return; generously housing birds, squirrels, and other animals; and being beautiful year-round. They create rustling leaf concerti as they are moved by the now gentle, now strong Holy Wind. Human beings may be helpful or hateful, grateful or ingrates, beautiful or not so much. Tree have no choice. Like their Creator, they are what they are. Goodness is their prime directive, one from which they never waver. May we all be guided by and strive to emulate TREES.”
Come to think of it, as a Jewish-Christian , I am firmly convinced that if reincarnation is not true, it should be. The Semitic idea of one-strike-and-you’re-out is downright cruel. Even baseball, a game invented by fellow fallible humans, gives batters up to seven chances before calling them out. The Semitic approach is about as fair as the idea that if you’re not a Christian, you’re going to hell. Both concepts are worthy of the tribal god, Jehovah, of the Five Books of Moses, not so much of the later prophets, let alone Jesus’ Father, whom he called Abba, Aramaic for Daddy. By a similar token, I’ve always been a supporter of so-called mastery learning. You just stick with an idea, a concept, or a whole subject till you get it. Why this similar one-strike-and-you’re-out business? Even President Nixon’s, or was it Reagan’s?, War on Drugs, as I recall, featured a three-strikes policy. We learn, as John Dewey correctly pointed out, by doing. Getting-it-wrong is often the golden road to getting it right. And we do that like when one walks the Camino in Spain, one step at a time, or as Twelve Steppers say, one day at a time.
So let’s look to trees and learn from them. We die and are reborn many times in our lifetime, and, I believe, our lives themselves are successive opportunities to get right what we failed to do in previous incarnations. A generous Universe or its Creator could offer nothing less.