September 28, 2007

For a year I lived on a farm in Korea that was run by an in-house Catholic priest and frequented regularly by other priests from throughout the country. They seemed wonderfully warm hearted men doing what they thought best for those in their charge. On the surface their public persona was exemplary. Behind closed doors, however, I learned of their being all too human, all to susceptible to the complexities of being human and all to susceptible to the many human frailties including sexual misconduct. I was saddened and appalled and left Korea with a hugh dislike for those in power who not only abused their power, but couldn’t walk the talk they were so ardently preaching.

That was nearly 40 years ago. Today I only have to look at myself and my own long shadow to see that being human — that being part of the animal kingdom — is to be set up for disappointment if total perfection is what one aims for. Wearing the robes of goodliness is never sufficient enough to disguise the earthly animal donning them.


Late on Sunday of this week, when most churches were having evening services, I planted the last of this year’s seedling trees. I held it up to the setting sun, much like a priest holding aloft a chalice or holy book, and with a prayer that honoured the miracle of its young life, placed it into the ground.

When I first started planting trees on this land 16 years ago, I strove for a 100% success rate ardently wishing, more or less expecting, that with enough understanding and technical expertise, this could happen.

The intervening years have taught me, however, that nothing can guarantee protection against the vicissitudes of life. We can water, we can fence, we can pile branches waist high, we can lay down mulch mats, we can increase the size of the the U.V. bags and we can use ever taller and thicker bamboo stakes, but in the end, just like the good priest in Korea, being of this world means being caught up in the wheel of chance where justice and injustice, righteousness and immorality, life and death are interchangeable.

On Wednesday, I spent the day in gale force winds re-bagging and re-staking trees that had been planted two to three years ago and were still surviving; trees next to, but outside of the new protective fencing. I hammered over two hundred stakes into the ground and did my best to protect these struggling young trees from the wind and wallabies. Maybe all this work will be for naught. It could happen that this particular section of the cliff will remain barren despite all the many years of attention, discipline and dedication given to it.

Being human, though, it is in my/your nature to strive for perfection and to live in hope that growth—whether physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual—is an ever-present possibility.


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