The lessons of an olive tree

olivetreeIn Greek myth the olive tree is said to be an immortalized lovers’ embrace. If you look at the stem of such a tree you might see how it is entwined with with itself, as if it were more than one and less than two.

It seems a good thing to keep in mind. The whole being more than one thing. The notion that whatever the relation none of us can be like islands. We are not closed self-sufficient eco-systems as much as rings in the water, echoing and mirroring one another. And even if it takes a trip back to the world views of the ancient Greeks… I think maybe sometimes it is good to just sit quietly and listen to what a tree can teach.

The myth of the olive tree

Legend has it that Zeus grew discontent with the doings and dealings of man. He found them selfish, ungrateful and arrogant to such an extent that he wondered whether perhaps it would be better to kill them all and start again. Moved to give mankind one last chance to redeem itself, Zeus disguised himself and visited Earth as a weary traveller. At each house he came to, he asked for a little food and shelter, thinking that if he could find just one home that would welcome him, there was hope still for mankind. But every time he knocked on a door, Zeus was bitterly disappointed to see it closed again to turn him away. None offered him even the smallest reprieve.

Disheartened and angry Zeus was near to giving up when he came upon a small and very rudimentary dwelling. A home of people who did not have much at all. Still, Zeus decided to try one final time, and when he did, he found the welcome he had sought. A middle-aged couple bid him inside, shared what little food they had and offered him a place equal to their own to sleep, and to his surprise Zeus saw that they did so with genuine kindness and concern.

When morning came Zeus threw off his disguise and told the couple of the thoughts that had weighed so heavily upon him. Thoughts that they had eased in sharing what little they had with a strange who could offer them nothing in return. For this he wanted to reward them. But neither the man nor the woman wished for any rewards. Zeus pressed them, eager to repay his debt of gratitude to them, and finally the man said that there was only one thing he truly wished for.

“You see,” he told Zeus “I have spent my life loving my wife, and I cannot imagine living for a single day without her. It is my wish that when it is our time to go, that we die together”. Surprised, Zeus asked the woman whether this was her wish too, and with a smile she told him it was.

“So be it!”, said Zeus. And he decreed that upon the day when one of them was ready to die that they should call upon him. Then he would come and grant them their wish. And with that he was gone.

Many years passed and when the time finally came, the man , now old and wrinkled, full of years yet with the love for his wife as young and vibrant as ever, called upon Zeus as had been agreed upon. Zeus heard the call and came. He saw the couple standing before him, holding hands, and asked if they were ready. Both smiled and nodded, and with that Zeus asked them to embrace. As they did he transformed them right where they stood into the shape of an olive tree that they might spend forever, lovingly embraced in death as they had been in life.

The lessons of an olive tree

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