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The Tree of Life
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The Tree of Life
Hendrik De Clerk
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It's funny how the world looks different when you know it will be the last time you ever experience any of its qualities. We live life in the modern world as repetitive and dull as possible – we forget that we are the creation of nature. I don't think I ever really grasped that concept. We are connected to each other in ways that were never thought possible – only imagined by the most creative minds – that allows me to instantaneously speak to someone across the world and hear of disastrous miracles as they happen no matter where they happen. We, humans, man, people, beings – whatever you like to call yourself or others – have become intertwined as a race. Becoming a machine society has separated us from the truth. The truth is that we are not the world; we think we are independent of the earth and its complexity and have become the host, bestowing ourselves the privilege of altering and commanding all that belongs to nature. Wow, I sound like one of those activists who glue themselves to streets and dye rivers or destroy works of art. I am not one of them. In fact, like most people, I quite dislike those people. It may be the fact that I am walking to a place where my eyes will capture life for the last time that I may have some understanding of what those delusional people were spouting. However, I still love the things we have created and the world we have formed. I don't hate the inventions we have made to better our lives – playing video games or binging movies are or were my favourite things. We are intelligent life forms and therefore have the right to build, innovate, create and imagine. It only occurs to me now that we have lost that flame in each of us that connected us to nature – to living. Have we lost humanity? I don't know if that is the right word; humanity is too ambiguations. Humanity means many things to many different people. Some believe it entails that we as humans have the ability to sympathise or emphasise – maybe, but I have seen other forms of life show care, love and empathy – others connotate humanity to man's means of creativity, to the power of imagination. I can see how this can be thought of as something unique to our race, yet how are animals able to build dams or nests, sing songs to their potential mate, create erotic dance rituals or learn new ways of gathering food if they did not possess this 'power of creation and imagination'. To be honest, I don't know what the humanity signifies. I only had a year of philosophy an undergraduate – one of those professors, I am sure, will provide ample insight on the matter. For now, let's stick with my thoughts on the matter. When I say that we have lost what made us human, I mean the fact that we forget to live. It seems that the only people who experience the amazing privilege of being human are artists – true artists, the ones that are mimetic, feared by Plato, admired by Aristotle, prised by Romantics and studied by scholars – people who work with nature and the rich. If we take away all our gadgets, careers and material goods, we resort back to being an intellectual living life form on earth. A form of life that has the ability to reflect on their surroundings and be in awe of the complexities they are a part of – to breathe. That is humanity to me: the ability to know that you are only human. That is precisely what I am engaging in now, the art of being human. While walking to my destination, I have no gadgets, no career I am pursuing and no material obsessions. I am breathing, seeing and feeling; because I am human, I am aware of this and can reflect on it. Because all that has been made mechanical has been stripped away, I have become more entuned to my base form, resulting in all my senses (which I have taken for granted) have been intensified. That, or the realisation that I will never experience the surreal around me, has made me more aware of them. Either way, I will enjoy this. Enjoy the cold air on my skin that has formed small bumps all over, sending a tingling feeling down my body. The hairs on my arm that never made themselves conscious to me are now alive, swaging gently in each direction as if they, too, have been given sight and, like children, are eyeing everything in sight with great amazement. My feet, who were only there to carry me to my monotonous destinations, are not free. Free wonder the ground like a mole – blind but sensitive and with precise direction. Best of all is my eyes. They are truly alive – maybe for the first time since I was a child – and are able to witness life. I don't remember the precise moment my eyes became dormant; I don't even recall my age. I do, however, remember how the world seemed to be alive in everything that came into my vision. I can see life all around me, from the trees to the wind, from the clouds to the small drops of water on each leaf, from the large soaring birds to the smallest insect – all alive and all experiencing life with me. My fingers also seem sensitive; I now realise I never paid attention to the textures around me. The bark feels rugged, and the soil ruffs with every particle scratching my skin. The thing I feel most is the rope in my hands. The fibres caress my fingertips, and their plaited nature is like speed bumps whenever my hand moves over them. It makes my heart race; I can hear it beat faster and faster as my destination draws near. Having monologued to myself again – however, this time, I did not mind – I feel like a modern Wordsworth, and unlike Odin, I have gained the knowledge before the act. 

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