Optimism, kindness, knowledge and homogenous
I just read The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak. It is a fable in which a fig tree does most of the talking. Four passages in this intriguing book each reflects a new way to think about one of the words in the title. Each takes on new possibilities for me. See what you think.
- People assume it’s a matter of personality, the difference between optimists and pessimists. But I believe it all comes down to an inability to forget. The greater your powers of retention, the slimmer your chances at optimism. I like definitions that bring in fresh perspectives. Another example read recently was from actor Harry Hamlin, who said that expectations are resentments waiting to happen.
- It touched me, his/her kindness, the sheer simplicity of it. For kindness always is-direct, naïve, effortless. What a great and unusual set of descriptors. I especially like naïve and effortless. While we speak in our results work of intentional behavior calculated to achieve a gain, nice to think about being kind in a different way.
- With their olfactory memory, ants can pick up scent trails, sniff out an intruder from another colony, and, when far from home, they can remember the way back… Everything they learn, they transfer to the next generation. Knowledge is nobody’s property. You receive it, you give it back. In this way, a colony remembers what its individual members have long forgotten. I think of most achievements as based on achievements which stand out from the group. This view of knowledge shows us a collective path to imbedding what we know.
- One thing I noticed back then, and have never forgotten, was that remote and seemingly lone trees were not as badly affected as those living together in close proximity. Today, think of fanaticism—of any type—as a viral disease. Creeping in menacingly, ticking like a pendulum clock that never winds down, it takes hold of you faster when you are part of an enclosed homogenous unit. Better to keep some distance from all collective beliefs and certainties, I always remind myself. No mind set is to be set in our beliefs. While ants show how culture stays imbedded through a collectivity, this passage from The Fig Tree speaks to how the certainties of togetherness may be the least certain way to thrive.
Almost all books have a few nuggets. The Island of Missing Trees has many.