Have we seen a tree?
The word is not the thing, so do we see without the word?
Do we see with all our senses?
Have we touched a tree? Smelt it? Tasted it? Climbed it? Sat under it?
Have we seen it in the rain?
Heard the sound of rain on its leaves?
Have we seen it at the break of dawn?
Heard the first birds that wake on its branches?
Have we seen it in the changing light of day?
Against the sunset? Against dark clouds?
At night? When the moon is full? In the dark night?
In the flash of lightning?
Have we seen it when its leaves fall?
When the new leaves come?
When it swings in the storm?
When a breeze stirs its leaves?
When a squirrel runs a loop on its trunk?
When from upon a branch an owl hoots to a distant hoot?
Have we seen its shadows changing with the day?
And with the seasons?
Its shadows by moonlight?
Do we know what its roots feel drawing up the sap?
Its leaves, in the first rain after summer?
Can we flower to spring like a tree?
And drop our leaves to autumn?
Can we stand and perish like a tree?
Have we heard the woodpecker on a dead tree?
Seen the termites turning it to earth?
Have we lost ourselves in a tree?
Have we become a tree?
The word tree is not the tree.
Source: Taleemnet, For They Have Their Own Thoughts.
Poem By: Manas Mukul Das
This asks us the question: Do we really know anything or anyone at all? We have perceptions. And words. Words which give air to our perceptions. But words mean different things to different people. So, not only is some truth lost in translating the real to our perceptions through our words, but also in someone else's deciphering meaning from our words and forming different perceptions.
And this brings into sharp relief the inadequacies of language. And the dangers.
But this is not all that this verse says. The inadequacies don't end with the language. They extend to us. We are poor, for we suffer the poverty of time. And of wonder. We choose to be quick, and fritter away the gift we are endowed with as children. We replace wonder with curiosity. A destructive kind of curiosity. And somewhere down the line we lose even that much.
That leads me to my first and final question. Do we know anything or anyone? Even ourselves? Do we give ourselves time? Or do we live with the perceptions of other people as our own truth, finding in their words an image of ourselves and seek to live true to that image?