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by Jacqueline Ives (Age: 79)
copyright 10-21-2012

Age Rating: 13 +



    Two young students sat in the shade of an oak-tree on a beautiful summer’s day. 

     “I have to write this essay,” explained Sue, “about the theory that life seeks out pain, using the analogy of an oak-tree.”  She touched the rugged trunk.  “Like this one, I suppose.  The idea is that the oak wants the axe.”

    “The tree breathes out oxygen for us,” said Tim.  “This doesn’t tie up with wanting to be axed.”

     “Why not?” asked Sue.  “In any case, the tree isn’t conscious that it breathes oxygen.”

     “In that case, it isn’t conscious enough to want to be axed!”

     The students were sitting on the grassy ground beneath the tree – or rather, on its roots.  The tree supported them, as it supported the birds and squirrels and insect life in its branches.

     “I think,” said Sue, “that often you go through pain because you want to achieve something through it … birth of a child … salvation of mankind … ”

      Tim grunted.  “There can be more masochistic reasons.  But supposing you’re right,  continuing the example of the oak, you would have to say that it feels it will have achieved something through being axed.  This gives more point to what I said just now.

If  the oak is useful breathing out oxygen, it doesn’t need to feel useful through being chopped down.”

     “But it’s true that the oak isn’t conscious enough to be a good analogy anyway.”

      The leaves of the oak-tree stirred, on this calm day.

      “A better example,” said Tim, “is the insect – the moth that keeps flying back to the light although its wings get burnt.”

      “It only does this because of the way its eyes are constructed – many faceted prisms so that it can’t steer away from the light.”

     “So is it only humans who deliberately seek out pain?”

      “Do you remember that time, Tim, when you said you were completely numb with grief?  You cut your arm with a knife.  You said that you did it to get some sort of sensation.”

       “Oh, for God’s sake!”  He sprang to his feet.  “Don’t bring that up now!”

       “I’m sorry, Tim!”

But he realised in a moment that she had only spoken in the spirit of truth.  She ran to catch up with him and the two students departed, laughing and chasing each other.

       The oak-tree stirred, dimly trying to feel sensation in its stiff limbs.  Certainly, if it could desire, it did not desire to be cut down and lose these dim sensations in death.  The dryad, the spirit of the oak stepped out of the tree for a moment and said:

       “Life seeks out pain – or rather, seeks out sensation  - so as to come into consciousness.”

        The oak-tree was like the spirit’s body, but she was more detached from it than we are from our bodies.  Pain is an intensity of sensation – a sensation that comes when it is needed as a danger signal, or a signal to give birth, or when a lesser sensation has been ignored.  Sensation only becomes pain when it is ignored or, more often, when it cannot be felt at first.  This is the reason why the feeling the dryad experienced in the tree was pain.  She had to know an intensity of sensation – like pain – to enhance the dim sensation within the oak.

      It was the students’ conversation that had led her to such an intense awareness of this.  Otherwise she would have dreamed on as part of the oak-tree, diffused back into other tree life if anything happened to the tree.











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        08-07-2014     Mervin H. Dochterman        

Dear Jacqueline,
A well written story on a subject no one can explain. As always the story was very interesting. It would seem to me that all things living, know when they are injured, but do not have the ability to seek injury. Only humans have self sadistic abilities. Plants know they are injured, they know when to send repairs and do so right after the grass is mowed, take the ax to a oak tree it will send repairs. But they do not seek injury.
I am getting carried away, but it shows a well written story invites thought.
Good work loved it.
Mervin H. Dochterman

        02-02-2014     Mike Farr        

Hello Jacqueline,

The Oak-Tree,

An interesting Philosophical view point indeed,

I truly enjoy reading papers of this magnitude; they show the efforts of a deep thinker, with a mind as sharp as a tack. You are a most interesting and inspirational writer; I will enjoy your company on this site, God Bless You.

        07-09-2013     Mae Futter Stein        

She must have thought of herself as if she was the old oak tree and how the Axe might cause it to pain if cut into. The feeling of pain would make a good essay to write about, as you tell it in your story. Sometimes a story is the best way to get the information and be able to write a good essay. Thank you for sharing this delight bit of story as it has been very interesting reading about the old oak tree. I've read many poems about old oak trees, too. Trees are a good thing to write about in the interest that you gave in this story. Well done.

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