Trees don’t anthropomorphize

A student was telling me a funny story about trees the other day. I’m inserting my own elements for clarity:

There’s an old, large tree in the woods. Next to it there’s a newly-born sapling. The two are conversing, as the sapling learns the ways of being a tree.

“What are those drops falling from the sky?” the sapling asks the tree.

“That’s rain,” responds the tree. “We use that water to nourish our leaves.” A squirrel runs by as the tree finishes his sentence.

“What’s that?” asks the sapling.

“That’s an animal. Eventually it will die and decompose, and we will use its nutrients to make our roots big and strong.”

Then, an adult man walks up to the tree and starts chopping it down. The sapling is horrified. The man has his son with him.

“What’s that for?” the son asks, pointing to the tree.

“This is wood,” responds the father. “We will use it to heat our home and keep warm.”

The point of the story is that the meaning of life changes depending on which perspective you take. I think this is a mature posture towards the world, to understand that humans aren’t at the center of the universe, and to be able to cope with the uncertainty this revelation unveils.

But I think the next layer of maturity is to notice that trees don’t anthropomorphize; only humans anthropomorphize, and only humans wonder about the meaning of life.

And there’s a lot there to explore.