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Monday, February 07, 2005

Some quotations about trees

C. S. Lewis:
I am sure that some are born to write as trees are born to bear leaves: for these, writing is a necessary mode of their own development. If the impulse to write survives the hope of success, then one is among these. If not, then the impulse was at best only pardonable vanity, and it will certainly disappear when the hope is withdrawn. - C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, The Letters of C.S. Lewis, (28 August 1930) (my web source is here)

William Dowie on J. R. R. Tolkien:
The Lord of the Rings is basically a rural book, even something of an ecological tract. The companions travel through forests, over mountains, marshes, and down rivers pursuing their quest. They are in contact with the rhythms of nature and the significance of places and events in a way that is impossible for man in the era of mass production and urban construction. Things have meaning for Frodo and his companions, things that looked at from afar might be called natural hierophanies. The principal of these which Tolkien employs are special places, stones, rings, narrow passes, underground tunnels, moon and sun, night and day, trees and foliage, ship and sea, and the changing seasons. William Dowie, "The Gospel of Middle-Earth according to J. R. R. Tolkien" in J. R. R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller: Essays in Memoriam, Mary Salu and Robert T. Farrell, editors. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979, pp. 265-285. Quote is from page 268.

A further symbol of the triumph of life is the cosmic tree, which is related of course to the whole renewal of nature that begins in spring and blossoms into summer. As Eliade points out, "for religious man, the appearance of life is the central mystery of the world," for "human life is not felt as a brief appearance in time, between one nothingness and another; it is preceded by a pre-existence and continued in a postexistence" (The Sacred and the Profane, p. 147). Because this mystery of the inexhaustible presence of life is bound up with the rhythmical regeneration of nature, the tree became a central symbol in religious traditions. So in The Lord of the Rings the figure of the tree carries something of this same mythic significance when the Eagle sings to the people of Gondor:
And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed. [III, 241]
William Dowie, "The Gospel of Middle-Earth according to J. R. R. Tolkien" in J. R. R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller: Essays in Memoriam, Mary Salu and Robert T. Farrell, editors. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979, pp. 265-285. Quote is from page 273.

Ursula K. Le Guin, describing Ged:
From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees. Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea, New York: Ace, 1968, p. 98.

Frances Schaeffer:
If God treats the tree like a tree, the machine like a machine, the man like a man, shouldn't I, as a fellow-creature, do the same -- treating each thing in integrity in its own order? And for the highest reason: because I love God -- I love the One who has made it! Loving the Lover who has made it, I have respect for the thing He has made. (Francis A. Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death of Man, 1972, Ch. 4)

John C. Polkinghorne:
In the cross of Christ we see a lonely figure, nailed to the tree, exposed to the most tortured and lingering death that Roman political ingenuity could devise, deserted by his friends and taunted by his enemies, experiencing also the depths of alienation from the God who had been the centre of his life, the One he knew as his dear Father, so that he cries, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk. 15:34; Mt. 27:46). Christians believe that in this bleak scene we see, not just a good man caught and destroyed by the system, but the one true God who, in the taut stretching of Christ's arms on the cross, embraces and accepts the bitterness of the world that is his divine creation. The Christian God is not a passionate spectator, looking down in sympathy on the sufferings of the world; the Christian God is truly the "fellow sufferer who understands," for in Christ God has known human suffering and death from the inside. The Christian God is the Crucified God. John C. Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998. p. 43.

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