A Tree Grows in North Adams
By: Cheng Tong - Apr 26, 2020
I ordered a persimmon tree for my meditation garden this week. It is a 5-foot specimen, and will arrive in about 10 days. I already have a spot picked out for it, one with the proper amount of sun and a little shelter from the storms of winter.
I was able to order this tree as a result of a donation made to Blue Heron Stillness for the garden. One of the benches I’m building will sit adjacent to the tree. The elderly fellow who made the donation is something of a curmudgeon, a trait he wears on his sleeve with some pride. I intend to have a plaque made for the bench giving appropriate attribution to him, and it will read “The Old Bastard’s Bench.”
The etymology of the name persimmon, attributed to ancient Greek, is “divine fruit,” and “God’s pear.” In Eastern philosophy, it is said to represent enlightenment or the attainment of a higher life essence. I pretend no claim to such an attainment, and my Buddhist friends would say there is nothing to attain anyway. It is enough to say the tree represents something spiritually lofty.
But, it is still just a tree, a part of life on earth. It grows. It does not try to; it simply does. It is a tree, and that is what a tree does. It grows.
One of the senior monks at my Temple in China once said to me that the purpose of life is to live. Such a simple purpose, to live, and yet so difficult to do.
I could add a modifier or two, maybe “ . . . to live fully,” or “ . . . to live fully engaged,” or “ . . . to live in the moment.” But, these are implied and superfluous, and would just get in the way. I say keep it simple. The purpose of life is to live.
Here we are now, living in the time of stay-at-home. We are baking bread, assembling picture puzzles, working in our gardens, wearing masks and gloves, and fretting about when we will get our lives back.
We forget that this time is our life, also.. It does not go on hold for us just because of the virus, or take a time out. There is no point at which our life resumes. It has not stopped. It is happening now, this moment and the next. It is to be lived.
The tree grows. It does not try to; it just does. This is our life, and the purpose of it is to live. In this moment, and the next. It’s okay once in a while to sit on the Old Bastard’s bench, and catch our breath. But life does not stop, and we must continue to live it.
Each moment you spend longing for the future is a lost moment and can’t be retrieved. This is not living your life; this is not fulfilling its purpose. Howl at the setting sun, if you wish, but it will set nonetheless.
Be the tree. just grow. Don’t try; do. Even now, in this time of the virus.