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"The Growing Tree" (A Short Story)

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

A seed dropped from a large tree, landing on the ground in a place suitable for it to grow into a small plant. The ground was rich with all of the resources a new seed could ever need to grow into a tall and strong parent tree.

The growing seed learned to collect basic nutrients as it grew into a growing plant learning to recognize different seasons and watching as different animals meandered nearby.

The parent tree, much larger and taller, payed little attention from its place up in the sky as it mumbled to other large trees about nutrients, positioning of branches, sharing with other parent trees, with and without a growing seed, feelings toward the different seasons.

The growing plant looked up at the parent tree, not understanding what all the larger trees are talking about - what about nutrients? what are branches? and what about seasons?

A small but sturdy tree growing nearby offered the growing plant advice on which nutrients from which seasons and animals are best. The growing tree was thankful and spent much of his time saying the names of the different animals over and over so not to forget them. The growing plant watched the different animals as they meandered, wondering which ones are those with names he worked so hard to remember.

The growing plant was occasionally lucky enough to have an animal pass close by and would nervously ask, "what kind of animal are you?" The animal would reply but would not stop to chat, moving along as if it were busy looking for something. Depending on the animal, it would leave hair, fuzz, or other things that would fall nearby and slowly disappear into the ground.

Days, weeks, even months went by this way until one day a large animal with two little bumps on its head came directly up to the small plant, nuzzling it with its nose. Looking up to its parent tree, it thought what ought to do. Luckily, a breeze brushed by the large animal and its head picked up and stayed very still for a long moment, before quickly moving along and out of sight.

Such was the life of the growing plant is it spoke to animals, experienced seasons, and reflected on the many different sorts of advice he received over the years. The growing plant grew eventually grew into a growing tree with budding branches and small leaves, occasionally glancing toward that small tree from before with hopes to show off its new form. That small tree had since grown into a much taller tree, spending all its time whispering to the other taller trees and swaying in unique new ways.

Fortunately, a different small tree nearby noticed the growing tree and offered some interesting advice on how to hold its budding leaves in new and interesting ways. It was fun to experience with other small trees the many different ways to position its leaves. Other small trees soon took notice and began turning their few leaves at an angle. Other small trees could only hold their leaves slightly up.

The growing tree decided it would hold its leaves slightly up to the other trees' delight. But, eventually, all of the small trees began to grow more leaves on branches that stretched even further out. With each passing season, the many leaves could not all be held just slightly up. Some of the growing trees continued to whisper while some learned to laugh out loud, some seemed to enjoy crying and drooping, and some grew away from the group because of how the many seasons impacted them and the other trees and animals around them.

Over the passing years, the parent trees would occasionally glimpse down to see that their seeds were growing and they would raise their branches toward the sky in order let the sunlight through the canopy. All of the growing trees would take notice and lift their heads to take in the sunlight. Those that did not take notice of their parent tree's behaviors typically mimicked the other growing trees and managed to collect some sunlight. Occasionally, a growing tree would stop growing because it could not reach the sunlight. Its leaves would not grow to be as plentiful and its branches would reach further out to be near the sunlight of other growing trees. As many more seasons passed, the growing trees became taller trees and could see now that their place among the canopy was quite crowded.

What were the growing trees to do?

Story Ending Rationale: The story ends with a question for the purpose of sparking discussion and self-reflection. The following statements are meant to spark consideration for personal, social, and societal levels of discourse. Enjoy!

The experiences of these trees are different than the experiences of any other trees in a variety of different environments. The way we see these trees deciding how to approach those with less resources, those that are newer plants, those that are the parent plants, and the way the growing trees will need to answer to a variety of unique problems beyond their own survival - this is what philosophy (and yes, theology) is all about. It is the discussion of how a particular grouping of trees handles their particular situation that can then be connected to how a different grouping of trees might handle a different situation - all for the purpose of shaping an underlying philosophy that accounts for the moral and ethical challenges involved with living in a world that does not guarantee biological immortality. How we view environmental impact on the growth of living beings also impacts our views on how we perceive the responsibility of educating our own youth for the uncertainty of the future. This becomes an important aspect of a self-directed learning environment, infusing philosophy into the development of our youth so to prepare them for inevitable challenges with a framework specific to their environment and not the environment of their parent trees who likely made decisions with different environmental factors in place.

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