Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Tree of Life

The "sefirot" are the energy points that make up the soul and fill our being. They are called the Tree of Life and are depicted as an upside down tree with its roots planted in heaven.....symboliz[ing] the energy rooted in the Creator, whose thoughts and feelings are expressions of our mind & heart and create... the story of our life.

Those of you who are close to me know that I think I am Jewish. The rabbi I used to study with, Rabbi Cohen, told me he thought I had a Jewish soul. Flattered. That has to be legitimate coming from a rabbi, right? I must really have a Jewish soul. A need to belong, to have a well-defined tribe, brought me to Judaism. That and my belief when I was a child, that despite being baptized Baptist and going to Catholic School, that I most identified with the Hasidim of Boro Park. But the interesting thing - I didn't identify with the women walking steps behind their men pushing baby strollers and sporting ripe bellies. I identified with the men walking and arguing and swaying back and forth in prayer. I identified with the scholar. And then Yentl came out - why Barbra why? I was hooked. Planning to cut my hair and grow a beard and go to yeshiva. One thing - I am not Jewish. And despite my best efforts I could not convert. There was too much I had to accept to belong. World views and beliefs I had taken the time to craft. I was not giving that up. And I would not make irreperable decisions for my children. Their journey to Grace needs to be their own. And I couldn't go there. But, if I may be so bold, I still think I have a Jewish soul and a Buddhist soul (do Buddhist's have souls?)and a Christian, Rastafari, Hindu soul. What does that mean to me?

I am proud of the work I have done in life to create an ontology that includes things greater than me where respect for others is a given and not a suggestion. Where the weak are put first until such a thing no longer exists. And where the only thing that serves as currency is love. Naive. Working on getting more people to jump on that bandwagon. But what does really resonate with me is the image of the tree. The tree of life. I have a friend creating a tattoo for me. A piece of art I have envisioned in my mind since I was very little. A tree that grows into a woman. Have you ever read "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein? I hate that book. There is a beautiful tree who speaks in what I can only assume is a mother's voice (I don't recall if Silverstein was bold enough to use the feminine pronoun for the tree), and sacrifices herself for the boy who grew up in her shade. She gives him her apples to sell to make money, she gives him her leaves to sit beneath for shade, she has him cut her limbs down to make a boat, and when there is nothing left but a stump she tells him to sit on her and rest until he dies. WTF? I hate that book. What did the boy ever do for the tree? She should have taught him to stand on his own two feet and get a damn job. But no, in true sacrificing mother mode she gives the boy everything she has, without so much as a phone call or a card. Not this Mama.

My tattoo - it is of a tree who turns into a beautiful woman with her hands/limbs stretched up. There are representations of my children throughout the tree. The "fruit" as it were, but not attached to the tree rather resting on or near the tree with a definite independent spirit and life of their own. This Mama knows how to circle her children keeping them close but giving them enough space to grow and become their own person.

"Whose thoughts and feelings are expressions of our mind & heart," the Creator, Prime Mover, G-d, Bob Marley, whatever you chose to call the architect. We are expressions of that greatness, that power that breathed the world into being. We are individual pictures released into the world. As we each are expressions of the ones who created us. And the Creator does not sacrifice itself for our existence and neither should we for another. The Ashanti say that if we stand tall it is because we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors - on their shoulders, not on their dust after we have trampled them into the ground. All of that is to say - do not sacrifice who you are - your light, your fire for anyone or anything. The world is a better place because you dare to be who you are. Ashe.


Matthew Marcus said...

I'm with you about the giving tree, sort of. The tree gets satisfaction from giving. I always thought of it as male, maybe because identified with the tree a little. It's a very one-sided relationship, which would be unhealthy if they were both people, but the tree is just a tree, and all he/she can reasonably expect from the "boy" is the opportunity to be useful.

If I were going to write a sequel, the old man would have an illegitimate child (seriously--with all that traveling he did, how could he not have one or two) who befriends the tree stump, but they have a much more nuanced relationship because the The Giving Stump doesn't have much to offer, and the child (probably a daughter) has to be creative to make the stump feel important. I'll write the story if someone will illustrate it.

Nanda Mama said...

I cannot decide whether to write my response here or to your email but I think here so maybe others will join the conversation - if it is intended to be a conversation.
1. I find it interesting that you identified with the tree "a little" and wonder if that is due to your highly-developed sense of being in the world or if other men would also identify with the tree.
2. One-sided relationships are never good - even with trees. Probably especially with trees because they do not carry recognized currency in the world. So, then perhaps it is the highly awake person who would see that they needed to give back to the earth that which they took.
3. I get the joke about the illegitimate child - and I think that would be a really interesting sequel.
4. And of course you are expecting me to jump all over your idea of the child being a girl and having a more nuanced relationship with the "stump" where she gives back in the way the "boy" neither could not nor recognized that he needed to.
5. I could illustrate it but it would only be stick figures!
:) Thanks for your comments I really appreciate them.

Matthew Marcus said...

Consciously, I made the protagonist a girl because it's standard procedure to throw a wrinkle like that into a sequel, but perhaps unconsciously I was thinking that a female would be more giving and nurturing. We do all have mothers, after all.

Stick figures I can do myself. I'll see if R. Crumb will do it. Worked for Harvey Pekar.