CUUC

CUUC

2018-05-04

From the Minister, May 6

The English word truth originated in a tree metaphor. Truth derives from the Proto-Indo-European word, deru-, meaning firm, solid, steadfast – as a tree. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives this entry for deru-:
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit dru "tree, wood," daru "wood, log, timber;" Greek drys "oak," drymos "copse, thicket," doru "beam, shaft of a spear;" Old Church Slavonic drievo "tree, wood," Serbian drvo "tree," drva "wood," Russian drevo "tree, wood," Czech drva, Polish drwa "wood;" Lithuanian drūtas "firm," derva "pine, wood;" Welsh drud, Old Irish dron "strong," Welsh derw "true," Old Irish derb "sure," Old Irish daur, Welsh derwen "oak;" Albanian drusk "oak;" Old English treo, treow "tree," triewe "faithful, trustworthy, honest."
So, when we are talking about truth, we are really talking about trees: steadfast, enduring, and utterly incapable of dissembling.

Imagine Winston Churchill had quipped, “A lie gets halfway around the world before a tree has a chance to get its pants on.” Well, sure. Trees don’t wear pants: they stand naked and undisguised. If John Keats had said, “Beauty is trees, trees beauty – that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know,” I’d have had fewer qualms about believing him. If Gandhi had said, “The tree stands, even if there is no public support; it is self-sustained,” he’d have expressed the obvious.

Imagine that, in the film “A Few Good Men” (1992), Tom Cruise had shouted, “I want the tree!” And Jack Nicholson had shouted back, “You can’t handle the tree!” What would not being able to handle trees look like? Reckless deforestation, perhaps?

In 2004, Ralph Keyes came out with a book, The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life. Can it be coincidence that we may also be approaching a post-tree era? A 2015 study found that, since the start of human civilization 12,000 years ago, the total number of trees on Earth has fallen an estimated 46 percent – almost half. About 3 trillion trees remain, and the number is declining by 15 billion a year. Should that rate continue, trees would be all gone in 200 more years.

Imagine Mark Twain had said, “If you tell the tree [i.e., speak in a tree-like manner], you don’t have to remember anything.” It sounds reassuring – yet to speak with the simplicity, forthrightness and elegance of a tree is no easy matter for apes like us. Our ancestors came down out of the trees, and we’ve been a rather shifty-eyed, evasive bunch ever since.

I learned as a child that truth was an elephant that I couldn’t see. The best I could hope for was to feel my way around a small bit of it. But imagine instead, as the origins of our language indicate, truth is a tree -- and, as the origins of our species indicate, our progenitors lived in trees, lived in truth. We used to dwell in the branches of living truth, and now we cut trees down to build our houses, where we dwell in structures of dead truth – sturdy, but no longer growing. Still, my relationship to truth elephantine is one of partiality, limitation, and incompleteness. My relationship to truth arborous invites my wholeness: I stroll among trees, accept their shade, their shelter, and their lessons, repose at their feet to while an hour reading, or just sitting. And, at almost-age-60, yes, I still occasionally climb one. In the branches of a beech, it’s easy to imagine that what Jesus meant, at John 8:32, was: “You will know the trees, and the trees will make you free.”

In Case You Missed It . . .

Click the pic for the Apr 29 sermon, on the May theme: Truth.

For video of a number of past sermons on our Youtube channel, CLICK HERE.
The Liberal Pulpit is both a blog site and a Youtube channel.
To listen/watch: HERE
To read, see index of past sermons: HERE and index of other reflections: HERE.
Practice of the Week. Honor Your Temperament. When the fit between your temperament and an environment is not good, it's hard to function at your best—whether it was in school as a kid, or in an intimate relationship or at work today. Additionally, it's natural to feel at some level that there must be something wrong/weak/dumb/missing about you—which gets reinforced by any messages from the environment that, yep, the problem is with you, not it.
Your Moment of Zen. Porcupine came to Raven for a special interview and said, "Last night when I was putting little Porky to bed, I suddenly realized that everything is completely open and clear to the very bottom. Raven asked, "What about you?" Porcupine was silent.

Zen at CUUC: Sat May 5.
Minister's Tuesday Coffee Chat. I'm at a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm. I invite you to drop by and chat.
May: Red Mango, 1924 Palmer Ave, Larchmont. (Try a smoothie! Or grab coffee from the shop immediately next door.)
The two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE.
Of particular note, regarding Centering: See recommended reading HERE
On the Journey, May: Truth. HERE.

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