Thursday, April 8, 2021

Enter the Cathedral

Giant sequoia trees at Calaveras Big Trees State Park in California.  We have a lot to learn, and trees can help us. 

Some years ago, Thee Optimist spent an afternoon in the south grove of Calaveras Big Trees State Park, on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. 

The south grove is home to over a thousand Giant Redwood trees.  With no tourist amenities other than a dirt parking lot, the south grove is also harder to reach than the more popular north grove, so the day I visited, no one else was around.

A few of the trees there are thought to be 3,000 years old.  The forest itself is alert and aware.  The trees speak to each other.  They have tremendous dignity. 

When we go to the ancient forest, we go as children.  And hopefully, we go with reverence, with awe, and with humility.  For someone without religion, this may be as close as you come to the hall of the gods. 

Much of recorded human history has taken place within the lifespan of trees that are alive right now.  The rise and fall of great empires, the life and death of great heroes, famous people long-forgotten, all of it came and went while members of this forest quietly stood watch.

Moreover, in the stillness of a late afternoon, as the sun begins to set, it’s not hard to imagine what grew there when the most immense trees were just tiny saplings so many centuries ago: their ancestors, towering Giant Redwoods, some of them thousands of years old at that time.

Empires have risen and fallen while these trees have just been standing here.

What We Do

We get caught up and swept along by everyday matters.  We’re busy, sometimes very busy.  We have pressing obligations – bills to pay and appointments to keep. 

We chase goals.  If only we could earn some more money, get out from under, make it to the end of the school year.  We’re prey to powerful emotions.  Anger.  Frustration.  Envy.  Things seem important and on some level, perhaps they are.

But life passes quickly in this way, and not much that we do will last in any event.  We will pass away and eventually, so will any memory of us.  Our job in the meantime is to lose some of the importance we feel and replace it with awareness.

Stop chasing, stop being chased, and instead become aware of the life within ourselves and within everything.  Notice the glow all around us.  If we’re aware, we don’t have to visit the primeval forest to enter the Cathedral.  We’re already there.

This morning, the sun is rising and the seagulls are calling to each other.  That’s the Cathedral.

The early risers are starting their cars and heading off to work. That’s the Cathedral.

A man is picking through trash, looking for redeemable aluminum cans, or food to eat. 

That is the Cathedral. 

Words of Wisdom

“I am losing precious days.  I am degenerating into a machine for making money.  I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men.  I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”

- John Muir

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  1. A glorious post, Mr. Optimist. The video link you provided about trees "talking" to each other was mind-blowing. It's helpful to have these shifts in awareness..., but it's so hard to maintain that throughout our busy, daily lives.

    1. Thank you. Thee Optimist is like one of those little jukeboxes they used to have on the tables in diners. Except when you push a button, he plays wisdom instead of Journey.

      The trees are indeed mind-blowing. The sun is an impossibly large, impossibly hot ball of flaming chemical gases in outer space. We find ourselves in a strange, mysterious place that we actually know very little about. And we go, "Work beat the shit out of me today. Let's watch The Bachelor."

    2. Reminds me of a moment in Monty Python. You can go to the most famous video web site and search the terms "Meaning of Life - People are not wearing enough hats" (I didn't want to paste a link, which I assume is a no-no).

    3. Very funny video. I didn't know we can paste links on here. I will try one.

      Biggus Dickus

    4. Oh, yes. As a Python fan I'm very aware of the Roman Nobleman Biggus Dickus and his troublesome speech impediment. But I wonder if that annoys his lovely wife, Incontinentia Buttocks.

    5. It kills me when Pilate creeps up behind the guards, and says, "He has a wife, you know." Just kills me dead.

      It's a strange, scary world to be a Python fan, within:

      "You are all individuals."

  2. It worked! Please feel free to post any link you want. Mi casa es tu casa.