The Process (or why a tree is not a tree)

Take a leaf off a tree. Is it still a tree? Take a sin­gle twig off a tree. Is it still a tree? Remove an entire branch from a tree. Is it still a tree? Take off half of the branch­es. Is it still a tree? Cut down the whole tree, leav­ing only the stump. Is it still a tree? Many peo­ple would say no, it is no longer a tree, though the roots may still be in the ground. Well, where did the tree go? Removing a leaf, it remains a tree, but not by remov­ing all of the branch­es and the trunk?

In the real world, there aren’t any things as we com­mon­ly think of them. A ‘thing’ as we refer to it is only a noun. A noun is mere­ly an idea, a men­tal con­struct. These ‘things’ exist only in our minds. There is no tree, there is only the idea of a tree.


I’ve been writ­ing here for almost a decade, pour­ing 10 years of my life into this blog. I recent­ly con­sid­ered clean­ing up the con­tent by delet­ing a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of my old entries; I’m not the same per­son as when I wrote them, and I don’t even like who I was back then. Not to men­tion the fact that some are rather embar­rass­ing, like read­ing your old diary in high school when the biggest prob­lem was what peo­ple thought when you wore your uni­form cause you for­got it was a Civvies Day.

The prob­lem I was faced with was decid­ing what should be delet­ed. People aren’t sta­t­ic; they’re process­es, events, evo­lu­tions, made up of cells that con­tin­u­al­ly renew them­selves on a dai­ly basis. At what defin­able point can I say these entries are no longer me? It could be argued that even posts as recent as a few months ago aren’t an accu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion, though there may still rem­nants of the old me in the habits of my thoughts.

Then I came across this pas­sage in The Tao by Mark Forstater, on the sub­ject of how using human lan­guage to encom­pass and describe a con­cept such as the Tao is log­i­cal­ly sus­pect: “Reality can’t be enclosed and described by words. Symbols aren’t real in the way that a tree is real, and how­ev­er much we may delude our­selves that they are, we’ll even­tu­al­ly find that the word ‘water’ won’t quench our thirst.”

I came to accept that the things I write here have nev­er been and nev­er will be a com­plete reflec­tion of who I am, so I’ve decid­ed to keep all the entries. The ones writ­ten by my old self serve as a reminder of who I was, and at the very least, they tell me where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.


  1. I am still deal­ing with this issue every time I move, because my life was all in jour­nals.… HEAVY ones… which I keep debat­ing whether I’ll scan and toss. How would I ever come to throw­ing away the very pages I drew on, dwelt on, wept on (lit­er­al­ly), and car­ried around all this time?… and yet.… is it the idea? or is it the phys­i­cal tree? the book leaves I want to hold in my hands… Somehow so far I can’t be sat­is­fied with­out the tan­gi­ble feel of pages. I like that they smell old. I like that the wire rusts. I don’t like that my twen­ties were pret­ty much chomped by ter­mites.… but they’re my loved bits of my time. And they always sur­prise me — for bet­ter or worse.

    I was one who advo­cat­ed idea over mat­ter the most, and yet I find this in myself.

    • There’s def­i­nite­ly some­thing about a hard­cov­er jour­nal, and the tex­ture of the paper you would lose if you scanned and tossed it. I still remem­ber cer­tain pages of my old note­books, the fibres warped from stains of tea or tears.

      And oh the smell…

  2. You have to accept that the things are not build­ed that you will ever under­stand. Lets ask an ant or a cat they should explain and write down how our world works, how a car work or a com­pa­ny, hospital.….…lets imag­ine they able to write.….they will wrote down the same sens­less things we do now.…..we not able to under­stand and all your things nev­er, nev­er explain the truth.….sure there is no spoon or no chair .…..maybe every­thing is a dream,.…..but give up…you wast­ing time.… who ever build that uni­verse with all the big uncount­able plantes, animals.…..till the small­est part .…..only he can let us under­stand small parts of it or not.….you are small­er like an ant and he big­ger like us.….we have lim­its you need to accept If not you will find it out.

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