Throughout much of my life, I paid little attention to the miracles that surrounded me. I was too busy thinking about business and money… too busy being annoyed by annoying people. I had no time to think about the real world – the world that matters. Nature and I were perfect strangers.
Funny how life plays out. Who would have thought that some of my best friends would turn out to be trees?
I know that people often say a dog is man’s best friend – and I like dogs… so long as someone else feeds them, walks them, and, well, does all the rest of the stuff that goes along with having a dog as your best friend. But what I like best about trees is that they take care of themselves… and, unlike dogs, they usually outlive you.
My favorite trees are the 75 or so that jut out from the back-left corner of my house at a 45-degree angle, like a perfectly drilled platoon. I visit my leafy pals – who shield me from the outside world – just about every day. In the slightest breeze, they whisper their secrets to me.
A few weeks ago, my trees were having a special evening. Their leaves had turned multi-shades of gold, brown, and reddish-purple. There was a chill in the air, and it was as though they were letting me know they were packing it in for the winter.
On this fine evening, Ravel’s “Bolero” felt right. I hadn’t played that CD for more than a year, but for some reason my hand pulled it off the shelf. As I watched my trees and listened to the music, I thought about the man I used to be. Then I thought about my new best friends… whispering to me through their fluttering leaves… with Ravel’s “Bolero” capturing their message symphonically.
The magical music also brought to mind Dudley Moore in the classic film 10. Remember Dudley Moore, that funny little English guy with the club foot… obsessed with Bo Derek… and, his ultimate fantasy, ending up in bed with her in the posh Las Hadas Hotel in Manzanillo, Mexico… with Ravel’s “Bolero” playing triumphantly on the soundtrack? How in the world could I have possibly known that less than 10 years later I would live in a villa right next door to that very hotel, and that my son would be born in Manzanillo?
Hard to believe, but Dudley Moore has been dead for more than six years now. And Bo Derek, the 23-year-old “10” in the film is now 52 years old, a grown woman fending for herself… her outrageously handsome svengali of a husband, John Derek, having passed on a full decade ago. These wandering thoughts brought a nostalgic smile to my lips. Yet, at the same time, made me feel sad about how relentlessly life moves forward.
My eyes and thoughts shifted back to the trees.
Soon, I thought to myself, most of the trees will be bare and their appearance will once again be somber. Happily, they are reborn every spring, live life to the fullest in the summer, enter the twilight of their lives in the fall… then, finally, they seemingly die. But not really. In truth, they merely hibernate. It’s more like recycling than death.
Death is but an illusion. And not just for trees in the winter. When a human being dies, he, too, is recycled. Not one atom of the body is lost. The atoms are simply rearranged when the soul moves on. How are they rearranged? It’s not our job to figure that out. As Deepak Chopra put it in his book Life After Death:
“A drop of water becomes vapor, which is invisible, yet vapor materializes into billowing clouds, and from clouds rain falls back to earth, forming river torrents and eventually merging into the sea. Has the drop of water died along the way? No, it undergoes a new expression at each stage. Likewise, the idea that I have a fixed body locked in space and time is a mirage. Any drop of water inside my body could have been ocean, cloud, river, or spring the day before. I remind myself of this fact when the bonds of daily life squeeze too tight.”
When Chopra says “the bonds of daily life squeeze too tight,” it sounds very much like the pressure I felt back in the days when business and making money were the only things I thought about… and still feel occasionally. Perspective is a magic tool for easing those bonds.
Which brings me back to my Ravel’s “Bolero” evening a few weeks ago. My thoughts drifted away from the movie 10, and I began thinking about the recently deceased Paul Newman and a scene from one of his most memorable films, Cool Hand Luke.
Newman’s character, Luke, had escaped from a prison chain gang earlier in the day, and a posse was closing in on him. He takes refuge in an old abandoned church and begins talking to God about what a hard case he has been all his life.
Finally, he gets down on his knees and asks God what he should do. Just then, his fellow escapee, Dragline (George Kennedy), bursts in the side door and frantically warns him that the police are outside. Whereupon Luke, displaying that classic Newman grin, looks up at the ceiling and says, “Is that your answer, Old Man? You’re a hard case too, ain’t you?”
I’ve thought about that scene many times over the years, because the truth is that none of us has a clue about what the “Old Man” has in store for us, and it seems to me that it takes a great deal of arrogance to claim otherwise.
I often think that the world we are so bogged down in is nothing more than a gigantic hoax that nature has played on us. I’m talking about the world we spend most of our time focusing on – the world of media pundits who spew the same old cliches at us day after day… politicians who offer to give us more of our neighbors’ wealth if we will just agree to give them power over our lives… multi-millionaire athletes who lead us to believe that their triumphs will somehow make our own lives more worthy and fulfilling… nonsense and illusions that must surely cause nature to smile at us condescendingly.
In my heart of hearts, I believe that what we normally think of as the real world isn’t real at all. It’s as though we’re all children acting out a play on a spherical stage spinning around in space.
But the trees… and everything else that we call “nature”… perhaps they know the answers to all the questions whirling around in our heads: How did we get here? Why are we here? Where are we going? The fact is that we just don’t know. Walt Whitman may have come up with an answer that transcends all others when he wrote, in his poem Miracles, “To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, every cubic inch of space is a miracle.”
And speaking of miracles, the miracle of spring isn’t as far away as you might think. I love spring, because it invigorates the soul by serving as a reminder that nothing ever really dies. If you, too, sometimes feel the need to ease the bonds of daily life, I highly recommend that you start taking a closer look at the real world – the world that’s all around you – and spend less time thinking about the shallow, insane world that most of the human race only believes is real.[Ed. Note: Improving your life starts from the inside out. Yes, you need to take action in order to move yourself forward to success. But sometimes you need a little push to get yourself going… and some simple techniques to help you accomplish your dreams. Discover 189 ways to get everything you want out of life.