“The plants around us not only give oxygen to our lungs but also to our souls”Anonymous
Let us look at our green neighbour – the plants around us. These species of organisms scattered on the earth’s surface spend their entire lives confined in one single place. They are, by nature, immobile. They cannot change their geographical location at their whims. They stay still and static in the same place throughout their life. And they keep displaying their vitality and exuberance by growing green leaves, branches, blooming flowers, fruits and seeds. They go on writing the tales of life by spreading their roots underground – out of the reach of human sight.
That’s why in the philosophy of plant life immobility does not always mean an absence of vivacity. Though the aquatic plants float with the current of water and do not settle down or anchor their roots anywhere. They neither entangle themselves to a particular place nor develop any bonding with any point of location. Their positions always keep on changing.
Human beings and plants
Human beings perceive vitality as synonymous with variation and dynamism; change is perceived as the mark of life. But variability does not mean change of place or location or movability only. A life confined to a certain location is devoid of change and stagnant is not an acceptable proposition. This is the wisdom that comes from the life of plants of land that are immobile, static.
Each of them is the initiator of such a fundamental and major change in the form of a transformation process called photosynthesis which is directly or indirectly indispensable for the survival of all animal species of this planet. These green, self-fed species embody various kinds of change and transformation to supply provisions for subsistence to other organisms, including human beings. They have been imparting all ingredients of life – from oxygen to food – unconditionally since the very dawn of this creation.
It is a ubiquitous sight that the wanderers pick up and collect flowers, fruits, branches and leaves from the trees on roads or open fields indiscriminately without any hesitation or sense of guilt. Why should they not do that either?! Where would they go to seek permission? Even if they would desire for a nod, the plants are not capable of giving the same.
However lively and self-dependent for producing their own food they might be, the plants do not possess a mind after all. If they do not have a mind, then how can they have memory? Is it at all possible to find out any trace of historical awareness in plants? As per human logic and understanding, it is obviously not possible.
However, though plants do not have the kind of mind humans possess, they can have a mind of their own kind. And why should we assume that the history of human evolution and civilization is not inscribed on the walls of the vegetable mind? Who can say that the narratives of the different parallel episodes of the timelines of human history are not recorded in the annual rings of a tree?
Let’s learn from the plants around us
Truly speaking, our green neighbor sends out the signals of self-reliance of an entity and the height of freedom enjoyed by it. Many realizations derived from the experiences of human life seem unrealistic then. The reality of plant life can show a completely different direction to human philosophy of life. The secret password of feeling vigorous despite being denied any locational movement can be learnt from this set of silent green organisms with whom we have been co-living for so long. Despite being static, one can feel free of bondage – this insight also comes from plant life.
On the other hand, the floating aquatic plants teach us that flowing and moving do not always come out to be rootless. The wealth, greatness and shortcoming of human life are defined according to specific criteria constructed by the human mind only. Thus they are not eternal or fixed once and for all. The motionless state is not necessarily stagnancy; novelty can be sought, and creativity can be cultivated even by remaining still at one singular place. Therefore, stagnancy is not a shortcoming or failure at all as it is often perceived in the human context.
At the same time, we can have a variant outlook towards life if we realize that being in a floating state is not always being rootless or uprooted. Then it would seem feasible to float with the stream of life while carrying our own roots. This insight helps us to overcome the peril of refugee sentiment. Both stability and variability ambivalently attract the human mind, and this probably creates various existential and psychological crises and tensions for us. The plant wisdom can throw some light to get rid of them.
There is no motivation to prove oneself as benevolent; there is no expectation of getting recognition or honor as a generous soul. These self-reliant, self-contained species spend their entire lifespan by unconditionally giving away their surplus, by providing shelter to others in their own body, by silently tolerating plunder of the goons, by not complaining about their fate of immobility. Perhaps the self-dependence of survival has given such insight, a rich philosophy of life to this species that can enrich the life of the self-proclaimed greatest species of earth. This makes the life and living of plants appealing on various grounds. Each and every nook and corner of human life is filled with the presence of plants – from birth to death – in each moment. The co-living and co-dying with green corpses are mingled with the different layers of human life.
আকাশে পঞ্চমীর চাঁদ, নিচে আগুনের লেলিহান শিখা
গাছেদের মৃতদেহ পুড়ে পুড়ে সেই শিখা ঊর্ধ্বমুখী হলে
দূরের পাহাড়ে কান্নার ঢেউ
আছড়ে পড়ে কাঁদায়!
গাছেদের নির্বাক বেঁচে থাকা শেষ হলে
একদিন তারা চলে যায় সহমরণের পথ ধরে
মানুষের সঙ্গে চিতায়।
(As a half moon rises up in the sky, the fire dances below;
The mountains open up the floodgates of their tears,
The trees die when they had lived up silently
burning with the pyre of a man.)