From the time we planned our first issue of ARS VITAE last year, we have wanted to publish a volume on the theme of wisdom. ARS VITAE is a publication about the art of life, and wisdom is a necessary key to living well.
But what is wisdom? And how do we acquire it?
There seem to be two main ways to gain wisdom: experience and time. Both of which we realised we needed more of before we delved into such a far-ranging topic. So a year and half later, here we are with our first, of the probably many, studies on wisdom in the series.
Wisdom is far more than the basic knowledge that we can acquire from book-learning. One dictionary defines wisdom as: “knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life”. By experiencing many different situations, we gain a broad perspective.
Time is also an important factor. When we have a long view of time, we can discern patterns of cause and effect. We can perceive links between events that otherwise seemed unrelated. This is why we study history. Even in our own lives we experience, on average, five generations, including our own: grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren. The direct and indirect experiences from these generations of lives are a precious source of wisdom indeed.
But what if we could live longer? Hundreds, or even thousands, of years? Like trees. What do beings like trees, with far greater lifespans than us, know about life and how to live? Can the lives of trees tell us things that are relevant for our human lives? This is the question that we put to our contributors in this edition of ARS VITAE.
The responses that came back were varied and interesting. The fact that trees fight fiercely to survive was expected. But the innovative mechanisms that they have developed to cope with their environment and propagation are fascinating. Trees face their destinies in solitude, but they also cooperate systematically with microorganisms and animals for survival. They compete with other trees for sunlight, and yet they send out signals and warn fellow trees in the forest when harmful insects or animals are approaching. This last characteristic of trees as sentient beings that cooperate to protect their community is currently the focus of much interesting research. But what is also quite poetic about the lives of trees is that they die every year so that they can live again. Only the new branches and leaves are considered alive, and internally, the tree readily hollows itself of life, so that it can maintain the life of the whole tree.
ARS VITAE Volume 5 is divided into two parts. Part 1 is about the various characteristics of trees and the wisdom of survival accumulated over the ages. Part 2 is about the man’s relationship with trees. Numerous philosophers and sages have taken walks in forests and sat under the trees for enlightenment, and many religions have used the metaphor of trees to deliver their message. Trees have been a timeless source of inspiration for man throughout history.
Since time immemorial, many traditional societies and indigenous religions have treated trees as sacred beings. Research shows that trees actually do have the ability to interact with the energy of the universe and to record its movement. As many ancient poetic and mythic metaphors have depicted, with their roots in the ground, their branches reaching out to the sky, trees have been the repository of the sacred history between heaven and earth.
To celebrate the summer, when the trees are at their most glorious and verdant, the summer edition of ARS VITAE is a record of what man has learned about the wisdom of trees.