自然 Nature & the Sacred 木 Tree: Trees that Survived the Atomic Bombing at Hiroshima

Kurogana Holly trees that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Many traditional cultures say that a tree is a woman. When you cut a tree down, you are cutting down a woman. (Every time an Amazon box arrives and I see the cardboard discards I feel as if it is a woman’s body lying there.

Trees are sacred, so it was a wonderful miracle to see that these Kurogane holly trees (Ilex rotunda) survived the atomic bombing at Hiroshima.

Their burned and scared bodies and bark near the former Hiroshima Imperial Military Headquarters are a testament and inspiration today, 75 years after World War II – they survived. They are alive and green with leaves, like silent sentinels keeping time, as the doomsday clock this week was just moved closer to midnight.

Listening to Alan Watts this morning, I came across a lecture about Eastern Wisdom & Modern Life. That Western modern life is so disconnected from nature, whereas Eastern thinking is about living in accord with nature. We are a part of nature, as the Kanji character represents, of its own self, shizen 自然..

“A human being is not someone who stands apart from nature and looks at it from an entirely outside position, a human being has the feeling of belonging right in nature,” Watts said. “When the mind of the Chinese expresses its religious feeling, it expresses it in the object of nature. ”

The tree looks just like a woman, doesn’t she????!!!! Photo by Sydney Solis.

Watts talks about the West’s constant obsession to conquer nature, conquest of space, or mountains like Everest. “Why must you be in such a fight all the time with your environment?” he asks. This Western concept of chaoskampf, or struggle against chaos, and a mistrust of it keeps us distant from our own nature, using science and technology to “carry on a fight with our external world and beat our surroundings into submissions.” 

This attitude toward our own nature, teaches us to mistrust ourselves, our animal and instinctual nature, Alan Watts said, and it causes anxiety trying to keep a grip on things. But the Chinese and Eastern though says the natural world in which we live and human nature itself must basically be trusted.  “If you can’t trust your own nature how can you trust your very mistrusting of it?” Watts asks. “How do you know that’s not wrong too? So if you don’t trust your own nature you are fundamentally as balled up as anyone can get.”

Remains of the Hiroshima Imperial Military Headquarters, surrounded by trees that survived the atomic blast during WWII. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Reconnecting to nature as sacred, visiting trees and spending time with their energy is very healing, especially a survivor tree like at Hiroshima! When we return to our original nature, things like dropping atomic bombs on civilians becomes unfathomable. Why destroy your own self?

All around the world people are waking up to the spirit of trees and our relationship to them and our environment. People are aware of the planet’s destruction being out of harmony with it, and are starting to make big changes for the better. Arbor day will be here before you know it, we get to plant trees! Our Christmas tree was a live tree this year, and will be planted outside this spring!

Going to practice some yoga now, including tree pose vrksasana in yoga, to unite with nature, with myself, and to find trust and answers to life’s difficult questions within.

Because I have faith in Nature! Despite its horrors and terrors, all things are Nature things. What else are we to do? Nothing! There is nothing to be done! Except read this quote by Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to A Young Poet

“We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if we could only arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”

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