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Under the Hanging Tree


Assuming you aren’t color blind, when you look for the numbers in those tests with the multicolored circles, you are a bit startled when they pop out at you. Once they register upon your eyes you can’t un-see them. Many optical illusions work this way too- when you notice the pattern, the unmistakable lines won’t vanish- you will never view the image again in the same manner. There are lurking truths waiting to pop out in our society, in just the same mode, and when you notice them, it’s difficult to understand how they didn’t appear in clarity prior, when they were there all the time.

We are on a trajectory that cannot continue; this is undeniable to those willing to see, but most of the nation still hinges thought on old, tired notions of growth, and the election of the lesser of evils. There’s a shelf life for this type of living.

What will the future hold for us- and what will it look like? I once saw author Daniel Quinn speak at a tiny college in Missouri- he admitted that if we are to survive as a species, we surely don’t know what the means to survival will look like. Because we certainly don’t seem to be aware of a path at this time.

Quinn sounded mainly pessimistic, but I would say that is a sensible trait at this time- as long as it is tempered with an open mind. Anyway, during this talk, a fresh scrubbed womanchild entered the hall- she didn’t even bother to listen to the author’s initial words. She raised her arm in a ooh, ooh, ooh pick me manner when Quinn opened up for questions. She was certainly sent by her bible leather tooling class to disrupt this godless weirdo’s talk- maybe you don’t need to be punctual when this is your assignment. She asked how we can question the dominion of man over the natural world when that is how God set all of this up. Quinn did the most amazing thing. He didn’t engage this girl, but simply said words to the effect: “well, you have what you want then, that’s what has been going on- so you should be pleased.” And with that, he was done with her. The wind was no longer fluffing this girl’s sails and she looked ready to cry. I loved it. She was denied her story that she was of course planning to tell back at headquarters. Quinn was right- they have done it their way- that of the patriarchal god- the plunder of the natural. How’s that workin’ out for you? The truth is so obvious if you have the will to look. That girl probably never will peek out from under her covered eyes.

Of course things can’t go on as they are.

It might mean extinction. This is an inconceivable thought to most, but look at how many animals have vanished during our time of Dominion. Poetic Justice may demand our blood. Sometimes the behavior is so terrible that there is no answer. I’ve been told by relatives who are raconteurs that there is a “hanging tree” in Ireland for our family. I don’t know that I believe this, but here’s the story…. They say somebody did something so terrible in Ireland prior to emigrating that when they left, a tree was planted. Not for aesthetic or shade purposes, but for this reason: If anyone in the family should come back….well, hopefully the tree would be large and strong enough to hang them from.

I’m pretty sure this is a tall tale, but I’m not above using it (and feel free to use it as well). When my kids ask to go back to a place like Disney World, I just remind them that their past behavior there was so terrible that they planted a hanging tree at the Magic Kingdom. Just for us. It usually is enough.

Where am I going with this?

Here. The collective behavior of mankind (by that I mean the dominant culture that has defiled the planet) probably deserves a hanging tree. An outside observer would be aghast at what filth has been produced, and how individual agency has been caged to perpetuate this.

But against the odds, if the hanging trees don’t get us- what future lies ahead?

Again, I think Quinn was quite astute when he maintained that we probably wouldn’t recognize any answers at this point. He mentioned that prior to the Enlightenment- it wasn’t like they had a blueprint for the coming years. That’s not to say that many tiny trajectory changes can’t coalesce into something better, something beautiful. It’s all that’s left to try.

We are all bound to each other in ways we can’t always fathom. I’ve made mention in the past that we are like a grove of Aspens, all tied at the roots- the health of one tipping the health of all. But it goes even beyond that. Our very existence and what we view as the defining nature of ourselves depends on the interaction with others, isolationist Randians be damned.

Here’s your crazy, stray fact for the day: Did you know that there is no blue pigment in blue eyes? If you have blue eyes, they are only blue when there is an observer or a mirror- that kind of thing. It’s a lack of other dark pigments and the scattering of light that causes the perception of blue. There is no blue in there! Think about that for a moment, and consider how many other “firm” descriptors have no meaning without observers and companions? Most, I’d say. We are made of light and stars, and we breathe in the ageless air that filled the lungs of all who came before. Reality can stare at us and we don’t always fathom what exactly is staring back at us.

But for better or for worse, we are bound to each other. And once you begin to take notice, the truths will explode and tickle.

And I’ll wink at you to celebrate our luck if we are able to escape that hanging tree.

Kathleen Peine writes out of the US Midwest and can be contacted at or at the website


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