Karma & The Wisdom of Trees

I moved to a different apartment this week end. Given that am alive to tell the tale, I suppose it went well. I hate it – the whole process, I mean. Of course, no one loves to wrap all of their possessions in a combination of old newspapers / cardboard / plastic held together by cellophane that sticks everywhere but the places it is supposed to stick, put them in a truck, drive about for a while, and repeat the whole process in reverse. And having done that part (or most of it anyways), it still doesn’t feel like ‘home’. It helps that am so tired that when I hit the bed, I fall asleep instantly. But the day is not too far off, when the muscles will have returned to their normal limp state, and the Tylenol will wear off…

Why do human beings feel the need to move? Maybe, the bigger question is why do human beings feel the need to accumulate? Among my ‘cherished’ possessions – an envelope from a purchase made at the American Museum of Natural History (this envelope made it from New York to Delhi to Dallas in the last 2 years), clothes I didn’t know I had, tubes of toothpaste with about 0.2 grams of toothpaste, a broken shoe-rack (that cannot be mended), old magazines, and God, so much more.

I did the math this morning (when my brain got off the NyQuill I took last night to get over the cold I now have because of all the dust I’ve been inhaling) – on average, I have moved once every 2.7 years in life. And all this experience has taught me zilch. I still buy books as if I owned an ever-expanding, wood-paneled library. I cannot resist buying clothes or shoes or well, not throwing away old toothpaste, or really nice shopping bags (you know which ones – the fancy ones, with the handles & everything…they look soooo nice! How can you just throw them away??!)

Are human beings unique in this need to accumulate assorted junk? If other animals are doing it, do they just collect the stuff they ‘need’ – just like they eat only when they’re ‘hungry’? Why does a place not feel like ‘home’ unless it has, at the bare minimum, 20 things that you have absolutely no use for?

Trees are more sensible about these things. They find a spot that offers decent food & light, and say, “Well, this is it, baby. I’m putting down me roots right here!” And the more sensible trees even shed the unwanted stuff (old leaves, dried up branches, other assorted junk) once a year. None of the questions that concern us matter – is there a Wal-Mart or Kroger in the neighborhood? What about a Pizza Hut – will they deliver? How many minutes can I shave off the commute? What school district? Which floor is the apartment on? (Minor math involved for folks, like me, who only recently moved to the US – the ground floor is the first floor, the first floor is the second floor, and so on.)

According to The Economist, 40 million Americans will move house this year. 40 million – in one year! Can we imagine even 1% of that many trees moving? An evergreen from up north saying, “I think the weather’s really nice in Florida. I’m getting out of this cold.” Or a tree from Dallas going, “I’m moving to Manhattan to see some action – catch the shows, visit the museums, have a life!” Or hear the trusted Neem from India – “The opportunities in California are soooo much better! There’re hot Biotech start-ups around every corner… I could make it BIG!” No. Because trees are wise. You’ve got to admire their commitment.

I think I want to be a tree in my next birth. But knowing my luck, I’ll probably be cut down & made into a damn shoe rack, and be lugged all over the place, all over again. The concept of Karma blows, doesn’t it?

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