… on aspens and paris and humans and life

Jen's pic

Jen Bowman’s magnificent photo of Aspens

Yesterday I was unplugged.

In the morning, I was immersed in philosophy.  Number One Son Sam had a paper due.  He is severely dyslexic and absorbing certain readings can be a challenge (it’s never predictable though, that kid rocks Shakespeare like no other and has to tell me what is going on within those plays).

So over the past few days, we have been reading and thinking and talking and debating about Hume and Reid and compatibilism and incompatibilism and – my favorite part – how, if our lives are pre-determined by fate, can we be held morally responsible for anything we do.

After we talked it out, and he was clearer on a few points – and double checked them with his professor (always a very good thing to do, especially if we are discussing Aristotle’s application of physics (that dude’s genius-level, multi-subject philosophical connectitude is astounding))… anyway, we were done our back and forth yesterday afternoon and then I had a few more things to do.

At about 9:00 last night, I went onto Facebook.

I don’t always tend to jump right in, and often just look at my notifications.  The first thing I saw was from a friend of mine.  Jen had put up a post that said, “So many reminders this week that we are all here at the will of fate.”

And I thought, ‘Wow. How cool is that? Jen is thinking philosophically too, and about fate!”  So I wrote back some sort of quippy thing about fate and free will and philosophy being hard, because sometimes it is.

And a little later I realized what had inspired her post.

And headed back to her page, to note that I had replied to her comment on being at fate’s mercy having been unplugged all day.

I didn’t know about what had happened in Paris.

I didn’t know, until 9:00 last night, the horror that was now a part of our world.

Or about the lives who are now not.

And I stared, and clicked and read into the quite of the late and the early, absorbing until I reached my saturation point, and what could no longer fit inside spilled over and ran down my cheeks.

And I woke up this morning and thought of my friend Jen again.

Jen Bowman is a writer and photographer (among many other cool things and stuff), who is so inspired by nature that, when she leaves for a trip out into the world I find myself checking my computer regularly to see if, and what, she has written about.

Way back on October 22nd, she wrote a post about Aspen trees. And the photo above was one she had taken, of a particularly gorgeous grove of them. And, as has happened on many occasions when I read what she writes, I learned something.

Aspen groves are not collections of many, singular trees.

They are actually a single organism.

What you see above the ground share a single, often massive, underground root system. Each ‘trunk’ can live for 40 – 150 years above ground and, when they die, they are replaced.

That which lives outside of our view offers a glorious new representation of life for us to see, just as another re-joins the earth and water and air and stars.

The Aspen, as a whole organism, beneath the earth can survive for thousands (even tens of thousands) of years.

It is representative of the ancient.

And the mysteries.

And the before.

And the now.

This morning, for whatever reason, I woke up thinking of the Aspens and Jen’s photo was slowly moving through my brain, looking for the right synapse perhaps.

I was thinking of Paris waking up as I went to sleep last night.

A new day.

A new reality.

We’ve felt it here… New York, Washington, Shanksville, Boston… more, of course.  In more places.

Of course.

And then, as I went to look for the news of the day, I came across this photo from The Guardian…


And I stopped.

And remembered

Nous sommes tous américains.

We are all Americans.

It was the Headline of the French newspaper, Le Monde, on September 12, 2001.

Je Suis Charlie.

I am Charlie.

January 7, 2015.

And I am remembering, remembering… and then, from that image of the Sydney Opera House bathed in the colors of the French flag, I did a search…


The San Francisco Opera House last night


One World Trade Center last night

. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Calgary Tower last night


Auckland’s Sky Tower last night


El Angel, the Angel of Independence in Mexico City, last night

And I thought, Aspens.

That which rises above the ground, lighting and awe’ing the world.

Representing what is shared, but not always seen.

We are all one.

It is our strength.

It is our core.

It is …

Who we are.

Thanks for readin’.

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