The Tree of Nature and the Tree of Man

I’ve been troubled by this question recently – how does one know that he knows what he knows? I’ve been troubled due to the following problems. First, there is the problem of epistemology, which essentially holds that we cannot know all that is to be known as consequential to our being temporal. Second, there is the problem of ontology, likewise holds that “what-is” is not of itself but rather contextual, dependent, and probabilistic. Thus, definite categories concerning “what-is” are illusory and ultimately fail to precisely pin down reality, the ever changing enigma that it is. This conclusion constitutes the third problem, the problem of expression.

All three problems are resolved by means of a simple maxim – “All among men is illusory, and all among men is-not.” In the tradition of Augustine, I resolve that there are two cities, two trees of knowledge from which we can eat. The first is the Tree of Man, which holds within its vines a many-tangled mess, the monstrosity that it is. Beneath the ground gnarled, hardly above ground whatsoever, the tree of man is nothing but a stump growing horizontally at all times and never ascending higher than its current state. Its branches, thinking they’re discovering something new in searching for the light of the sun which ever-escapes them, grow beyond each other. But, because each remains rooted in his tree and because each lies in opposition to his brothers, none ascends any higher than the limitations set before him. All moves beside, and none move atop. Here the branches connive a great many inventions, schemas, theories, and postulates to maximize the extent to which the sun strikes them. Some suppose growing beneath the ground, searching ancestrally for a new route. Some suppose growing backwards, underneath the growths just before him, so as to do the same. Some have plans to grow at precise angles, to merge with other branches, to produce vines to capture bugs and ensnare other branches so as to prevent their growth. Meanwhile, the continuity of all negates change.

But the Tree of Man is not a tree at all, in this way. It is but the mere appearance of a tree, especially to the branches sitting upon it. Nourishing the existence of the chaos before it is the Tree of Nature, that divinity from which sprang the seed of Man in the Womb of Existence. Man, a commensalist upon his substrate, is not detached from him. But alas, though his branches grow outward deriving all their being from it, they, separate from it, believe that doing is their being, and that the source of their doing, the sun, ought also be the source of their being. Little do they know that that base sitting beneath them, Nature herself, had begotten every action they take.

Nature, unlike Man, grows to heights beyond Man’s branches. It ascends higher, beyond anything almost all of the branches will ever achieve. There, close to the sun, only it truly receives warmth. It does so without competing against any other for, indeed, it is, in some sense, all that there is. As above it reaches great magnitudes, so below does it extend into the depths, its roots grounded and intertwined with Existence itself.

Some lucky branches, exhausted by futility, ascend, and join in the heights of true being. Here, epistemology, ontology, and expression are resolved, as all that is imminently awaits.

Vicious Imprisonment

There is no other means to describe my present condition than a feeling of abject helplessness and, indeed, I don’t think I’d be remiss to describe things in such terms. No, there’s nowhere for me to go. There’s no place for me to hide. There’s no means for escape. All that is is constantly subsumed by my pain. In this way, the pain is a mental prison. There is no thinking beyond it. There is no coping with it, as to “cope” would imply to get along with a degree of normality retained prior to that with which one is coping. Such a thing I cannot do. There is no normality beyond the pain for the pain is the very essence of my thought. If I conceive of anything whatever, there it is. If I attempt to sleep to escape it, it finds its way into my dreams. If I attempt to soothe my body to escape it, it will not relent.

In this way, it imprisons me in a threefold manner. In the first case, myself as self is delimited to it. That is, in both body and mind, there is nothing I can do to absolve myself of it. My body is in physical pain. I am physically tired. There is a throbbing in my forehead just above my eyebrow. It is there. It is real. I feel with it a perpetual intensity that never relents. I am bodily imprisoned in this way. This is, however, not physically, but metaphysically. The space within which my body can move is not delimited as would be the case concerning physical imprisonment. Metaphysical bodily imprisonment, rather, is the inescapable torment of pain which follows one wherever he or she moves to. It is the perpetual, unending, unyielding feeling that no matter what one does or where they go, they are being being weighted down in a very real, physical sense. Its as though there is a vice upon my forehead, squeezing it at all times.

Mind is the third imprisonment, which itself can be subdivided into imprisonment of feeling, imprisonment of thought, and imprisonment of capability. The imprisonment of feeling is the mental realization of my bodily imprisonment. It is low mood. It is depression. It is anxiety. It is exhaustion as a consequence of all of these things. It is a constant worry that I cannot escape – not merely about the pain, but all things about my person as well. Without a firm ground within me, all that is seems to worry me. Even on medication, the worry does not relent. It is interminable and perpetual. It is the constant labor accepting a pain that is beyond my control, and the necessary feeling of helplessness which is consequential to it. When you cannot control even yourself, you cannot but feel that world is nothing but illusion. All concerns beyond me are illusory and empty, for no emotion rises beyond the pain. The pain sits on top my capacity to feel like an obese king gorged on the fat of his people. It is like living under a fascism of the mind, the paramilitary of worry protecting Pain, Il Duce himself.

Derivative of imprisonment of feeling is imprisonment of thought. Without the capacity to feel for life, one can only think of death. All multiplicity, all possibility, has been constricted to a narrow set of necessary particulars. My perception of life has become transmuted from an organic, complex reality into one reified, fixed, glued together and taut. It is as though I am not alive, but dead. I cannot think beyond these reductions. I cannot imagine life as it was. All I can do is recollect it with the colanderous cup that is my wholey mind. I cannot remember with any precision how I used to think or how I used to feel. All that I can attempt to do is recollect. I’m aware of that the ensuing collections of memories are lacking in depth because of their flatness, their weakness in comparison to the pain. Where once was a clear memory of my grandmother’s face, now there is a vague ghost of a memory reflected in a mirror of pain. What is now is merely an image of what was, one which resides in something other than itself. My memories are not memories, but copies of memories compressed by the vice that sits inside me.

Imprisonment of capability derives from both the imprisonment of feeling and of thought for, without the necessary precondition for action, confident knowledge, I cannot act at all. Confidence is the ordered state of my mind lacking pain. Knowledge is my mind grasping at reality itself. Imprisonment of feeling produces incontinence and anxiety, the disordered state of my mind maintaining pain. Imprisonment of thought produces belief, reality passing through the colander. What I thus maintain now is anxious belief. Without the ground of knowledge as my recourse, all that I attempt to do seems impossible and, indeed, as I do it, it seems as though I’ve done nothing at all. Lacking knowledge of my own acts means I merely believe them to have been and for future ones to be. My ability to conceive of such future outcomes is thus further delimited as, consequently, is my ability to perform such acts.

In these past 10 months since the pressure began, I’ve allowed many to delude me into thinking that all of the above was a mental concoction and that, in reality, nothing has changed. This I fundamentally cannot believe. These changes in my thought are actual. These changes in my mood are actual. I am more anxious than I was prior. This is a fact.

Even after typing all of this, however, nothing has changed except, perhaps, an elucidation and formalization of how my pain impacts me. The pain remains inescapable. The vicious prison remains set upon me. My escape is illusory.