Dead Wood

nurse log

Whether it makes a sound or not, when a tree falls in the forest it joins that great cycle that embraces all living things. Decomposition is as much a part of life as conception. Rotting logs provide homes and minerals and nutrients to other living creatures. Although the individual life is over, life as a whole goes on. Nowhere is this more evident than in nurse logs. Nurse logs are those trees that directly host seedlings after they die. While examining such a nurse log yesterday my daughter said, “It’s life after death.” Resurrection. The more I reflected on nature’s resurrection, the more selfish the human concept seemed to become. We want—and some of our religions offer—individual resurrection, the continuance of me, not mere life.

Nature has no theology. In its immediacy and pragmatism, creatures live without pondering what it means, striving to pass on the gift of life they’ve been given through their offspring to keep the cycle going. Evolution may shape forms into new varieties along the way, but we are more amoeba than angel. We are part of something larger than ourselves. Unfortunately our society has evolved to emphasize individual drive over collective effort. We don’t want to tax the ultra wealthy, for they are where we all want to be. It is the poor who are sacrificed on the unholy altar of this thinking that truly reflect what nature intends for us to be.

To justify our selfish outlook humans made gods in their image, adding prerogative to perfidy. Somehow we deserve more than others—longer life and even more life after that. Evolution has, in its non-directional way, distorted the picture by providing us with inordinately parsimonious attribution of souls, according to theologians. Nature belies our paltry attempts at self-deification. Quietly in the forest a tree dies, offering its life for those that will come after. The nurse log knows the true meaning of resurrection, while we fumble to gain more for ourselves, backed by the religions we’ve invented.

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