“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” William Shakespeare
Yesterday we hiked through the Giant Costal Redwood Trees of Northern California and felt an overwhelming sense of serenity and connectedness with nature. These trees, reaching so high into the heavens, that have been witness to a millennia hold a magical power that results in utter relaxation for the human psyche. These are the oldest living things on Earth with a wisdom that speaks of slowing down, listening, and the interconnectedness of all things. The process of growth and decay, but always one of regeneration, is beautiful to observe in all of its stages. These magnificent trees, that are so tall and massive in scale, actually have shallow root systems and support themselves by intertwining with their neighbors. They are a community. These forests have something to teach us about ourselves.
The fact is, we do not actually know that trees do not have consciousness. While they may not have a chemical processing unit like our brain, it is hard to imagine that something that has been alive for nearly two thousand years has no awareness. These trees, which sustain life even long after they have fallen to the forest floor, give selflessly to create the most bio-mass rich environment on the planet. Their life-giving power is sensed by all persons who walk among them. They inspire awe and create an uplifting calm that is observable in the lack of tension on faces and the lingering strides of fellows along the paths. If these living things are without consciousness, how is that we can learn so much about ourselves and the natural world by just being in their presence for an hour? In the forest we learn that death is not absolute, but transformative, and that living with integrity and grace really is possible.