I walked to the river listening to the clear water rushing, cascading, slipping over and down rocks. There I saw a tree, by the bark it looked like an old oak. The leaves had not budded yet, but I saw tender shoots beginning to form buds. The tree was planted right by the river, a massive root digging into the dirt shore line on one side and another plunging into the icy river. The tree was split and hollowed out. When looking inside, you could see where termites had helped with the hollowing out. The tree looks decimated and dead. Yet it stands and has two larger branches reaching over the river, although several smaller branches are dead.
This split oak hollowed out yet still living sustained by its root system and the plentitude of water is almost a miracle.
I can only compare this miracle of nature to the human existence. We are split in our wills, our actions. We are hollowed out by our sin, the sin of others, guilty of not forgiving, of straying from the straight path, nearly dead. Yet the river continues to sustain, roots nourish the decimated soul. It is withering. The fruits and flourishing nearly choked. Is this an image of a slow death, the intemperate withering, death of body and of soul? Or is this an image of hope? The tree continues on, although beaten, hollowed out, yet budding leaves each year. Eventually, it will die and fall into the river. The fate of every living creature.
Jesus tells a parable of the tree that didn’t produce fruit. He told of the farmer to cultivate it and fertilize it for a year and see if it will produce again.
This particular tree near the river doesn’t have much of a chance of cultivation. There is hope for a tree cut down, or a tree that falls into the river.
That is not its finality. The trees telos is firewood, or used for soil after it is broken down. How much more the worth of the soul? Its telos eternity, either stuck in its habituation of intemperance and incontinence or grace its impetus constantly rushing nearby like the river and reforming the soul–pushing on toward redemption. Yet, free will… we can be our own hell. The will split in two and hollowed out heading toward eternal death or eternal redemption and renewal.
Miraculously, the tree continues to live. It won’t be remade in this existence. But in the hope and grace of the eternal existence? (Or is that too Platonic?)