A Conversation about Trees

“Let’s take the tree, for instance. The tree grows over the course of many years and continually adapts to its surroundings. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of things growing into trees, or rather, the tree growing around said objects. Such as bikes or guns or railroad ties. My point is that trees are extremely adaptable. You can cut a tree in half vertically so it won’t grow into power lines, or trim them any shape and they will continue to grow as long as you don’t cut the roots. You can even transplant the largest of trees and they will persist as long as you keep the roots in good shape. They can withstand even the most severe storms if their roots dig deep. Some can even regrow after being felled. A new sapling emerging from the stump much like the phoenix in the flames. They’re versatile. They can acclimate to changing environments. Trees grow in frozen tundras and unbearably humid rain-forests. As long as they have sun and some form of moisture, they will grow. Or at least remain alive. Even in a nuclear winter, you will find trees. If they die, they will return.”

“Okay, I’ll agree, but how does this pertain to our current situation?”

“Because trees are an example of the Goldilocks Zone in terms of adaptability. They adjust just enough to survive, but not so much that they overcompensate and kill themselves. Granted there are some parasites that cause trees to overcompensate, but only in rare instances. Humans, on the other hand, adapt too quickly to biological threats, but are able to adapt at the perfect rate psychologically.”

“How so?”

“Have you ever read Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl?”

“I’ll admit I haven’t.”

“I’m surprised general. I thought it’d be required reading for all officers, but now’s not the time suggest changes to the curriculum. Perhaps you’ll still have a chance to read it in the future. In Frankl’s recount of his time confined to a concentration camp, he spoke of his ability to tell if a person would survive the trials ahead. To persist until they were rescued or ultimately their choice of survival was taken from them. He made a direct correlation between a man’s ability to survive with his will to live. That as long as he had a purpose or something to hold onto, a reason to live, then a man could endure any punishment. Frankl gave examples. One man’s reason was his family. Another man’s his academic work despite his only copy of his dissertation being burned at the gates of the camp. He had a need to recreate and share his work.”

“Nobody actively wants to die. Even the kamikaze’s in the Pacific.”

“True, but not everyone has that will to live either. Most do, yes, but many may lose that will if they begin to think that there is no escape. This is why we must continually remind everyone of the world above. To give them history and hope. Without it, they may deteriorate. Statistically, we will lose several over the course the years. That was the case before, even when everyone had everything. Down here, we will need to keep some dream of a future alive. Generations will be born without ever having seen the sun. Without ever breathing fresh air. Many may never believe that things such as trees ever existed. But if we show them how things used to be, they may hold onto that as their reason. The strings of the human heart are held together by a persons will. They swell in love and burn in hatred, but they remain because humans seek purpose. They strive to be better than their current selves. We must use that to our advantage. I encourage you to give them a reason to remain. Once they leave this place, if they survive up there, they will adapt to a world we will never know. At best, they will become beasts who breath the poison. Mindlessly wandering the toxic lands.”

“Alright doctor, your two minutes are up.”

“I just need you to know that hope is more flexible than fear. Even if it is a false hope.”

“I’ll take that into consideration.”

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