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                                               Chapter 3.  Trees of Life

After having served a cup of Darjeeling tea for my intra-galactical guest, I sat down ready to be engaged in a discussion to help the extraterrestrial get a grip on our social mores.  The light-beams I had been exposed to had still affected my vision, but my eyes gradually had become readjusted to the room with all its familiarity.

      I was now ready to reciprocate the favor by enlightening him about our strange species, strange that is, not only to him, but to many of us native “insiders”.

      I found it interesting that he didn’t look as strange as he did a moment ago, when I was still somewhat visually impaired.  Now that my pupils had become adjusted, I noticed he wasn’t as strange-looking as he had originally appeared.  Except for his tentacles, antennae, and weird looking appendages, he looked like many of us terrestrials who claim higher intelligence.

      Then we sipped a little tea, and I thought a little ice-breaker was in order:  “So my friend, where should we start?  How can I help you in your quest to comprehend how we human beings think?”  

     He replied: “Thank you very much for your hospitality, human, but please do not twist my words.  What I had asked of you was to assist me in my research, which we Zatoccians have already compiled in great detail.  What I need to know is why the human socio-economic experience is the way it is.”

     OOPS!  My first faux-pas - and on first contact, too.  I now realized how important interstellar semantics were in some settings.  Apparently this included situations such as close encounters of the human-kind.  It was important to choose one’s words carefully, especially when highly captious opinionated extraterrestrials are involved. 

     He wanted to know the “whys” to our woes, it seemed.  He apparently knew most, if not all, of our “whats.”  That meant I needed to get an idea of what these whats were, so I asked for some framework within which to consider.  “Well, first of all,” I said, “maybe you should summarize what you know about us, and I will follow up with explanations as to why we are the way we are.”

     “I guess that is fair enough” he replied.  Then he sighed and took a deep breath of the same nitrogen-oxygen compound we call air, and proceeded with the first punch:  “The research performed by some of our greatest sages on Zatox has been distributed and reviewed by all of us Zatoccians.  We have reached the conclusion, based on this evidence that that you humans are dumber than a tree.”

     Well, of all the colossal impudence!!! WOW!  What a punch!!  I thought a punch line was supposed to go at the end of a joke!  His remark hit me like the Tunguska event, striking me like a fireball explosion.  I was admittedly astonished by his caustic candor even more than his impertinent assertions.  At first I admit I was a little insulted - I know we humans are not all stellar students, but we do have some merits of intelligence.  After all, comparing us unfavorably to trees?!  When was the last time a tree spoke?  Or how can a tree walk from place to place?  But then I decided to see the humor in this:  “Are you saying that I am dumber than a tree?”

     “There you go again, twisting my words.  I was not referring to you personally, nor was I referring to any other individual person, but rather to the human species in general.  You do not have to go on the defencive.”

     Again with the alien articulation.  The Brogue-Stonehenge way of speaking seemed to be phonetically spelled out in the way he said the word “defensive”.  I was becoming more familiar with his Druidly-fluid English.  That exotic Stonehenge-Brogue pronunciation still with a cryptic hybrid combination of phonics was becoming less and less peculiar.  I found the Brogue-henge talk as enlightening as a summer solstice when the sun is at zenith.

     “You see, human.  It is our observation that a person is smart.  People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals, and we Zatoccians know it.” 

      Interesting comment, word for word from “Men in Black”.  They must have seen the movie or have checked out their own hot sheets.  I wondered if he was quoting that movie, but I guess it was just a coincidence.  In any case, I decided not to ask.  I knew that he had a point.  People tend to fall victim to social group-think, dictated by the culture in which they live.  That may be what shapes language use, too.  Like the word preservative, which in English refers to keeping foods fresh while in other Romance languages refers to condoms.  So much for sexual regulation and romance.

     Often people are unaware about the context of certain icons of history.  They probably are convinced that the name Enterprise was originally the name of a starship in a planetary federation, or that Churchill Downs was named after the famed British PM, or that the Ford Motor Company and the city of Cleveland were both named after presidents, or that the word “lollapalooza” hadn’t existed until the 1990’s music scene created it, or that Gracie Mansion got its name from a dizzy dame of comic fame.   They don’t realize that Wieners were originally sausages from Vienna, and cities named Syracuse, Toledo and Ithaca came from old Europe, while Philadelphia and Alexandria were important cities of the ancient near east.   

    I guess it’s easy to convince a westerner that Confucius was so named because he was confused about western civilization or that “Beijing” was called “Peking” because the communists of Mao used to peek around street corners looking for imperialist spies.

     He then went over to the window and motioned me over in a way only aliens can do.  “Take a look at the leaves on that oak tree, for example.  Notice how each leaf is different than the next, but the necessary nutrients – mostly water – travel equitably to all the leaves of the tree.  It doesn’t matter which branch you take, the water is distributed equally and to all branches and tributaries and eventually to all the leaves.”

     “Actually, if you take a good look, there some unhealthy branches, too.” I observed.

     The alien creature turned a bright red.  He became redder than a communist fan of the Washington NFL team from a pubby state.   I wasn’t sure if he was a conservative communist, but I was convinced that there were very few humans of this genre and sentiment.  

     His abrupt change in color was unbelievable.   If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I would have believed it.  But the change in pigment wasn’t a figment of my imagination.  It seemed real.  What didn’t seem real was the actual delusionary illusion of the alien himself.  I was probably having a dream.  But even if this were real, his chromosomal colors were nothing of consequence.  So, I guess, I had a dream.  And this was just a piece of it.

     Perhaps he was furious at my irrelevant response.  “Of course there are; that is not the point.  I am talking about the system by which resources are designed to be brought to the leaves.  By design this is truly equitable, as the leaves which sit at the top of the tree are as healthy in general as leaves which are in the middle of the tree and those which are in the lower part of the tree.  As ecosystems go, this is very fair.”

     Skin color was always a sensitive issue on our planet.  The chromosomatic issue bordered on psychosomatic hysteria with body color and race being such an imposing distraction to clear judgment.  The human “psychosome”, if there were such a word, seems more twisted than the double helix of an earthling’s DNA.  In contrast, racial issues were irrelevant on the alien’s planet, which seemed to indicate that his world was far more advanced than ours.  No one in his advanced society would probably have given the subject a second thought.  But I had to admit, I found his current skin color rather intriguing.  It resembled that of the Martian landscape, where iron-clad rules are the exception, a planetary home of the braves-on-the-warpath.  Yes, he was a burgundy hued redskin for now, until further notice – which judging from the past, 0would probably be very soon.

     Now a typically familiar earthly-human suspicion came to mind:  Could this alien be some sort of a socialist solicitor?  After all, red was that movement’s historic color.  Together with so many pro-capitalist citizens of the west I hated socialism, remembering what the Sovietsky Soyuz had done to so many people.  Perhaps I was prejudiced of the alien’s current color.  “Are you saying that all human beings should have the same wealth income, just like all leaves on a particular tree tend to look just as nourished?” It was my turn to probe and poke a little.

     In my frustrations of looking for work and the resulting futility I had so far experienced, it had occurred to me once or twice that at least the Soviet enemy knew how to keep unemployment low:  They got everyone to spy on each other via the KGB or other surveillance efforts.  Perhaps our administration will put people to work to spy on each other or to pour over all the data obtained from Verizon, Google, etc.

     “Exactly!!  It makes sense to us on Zatox!” he responded with affirmative exclamation.  I was a bit surprised that I had surmised his claims rather successfully.  “After all, your own Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal, does it not?”

     “Yes, it does.  But different people have different capabilities.  Those who are talented become wealthy, while those perpetually unemployed like me will belong to the poor class.  We are not equal.”  I was then sorry to have sounded so desperately humble, but I wanted my interstellar friend to get an accurate picture and that meant indicating my own place in the human scheme of things.

     Nevertheless, I did realize that not all the wealthy people are necessarily talented, and some got their money through cheating, embezzlement, or even some form of extortion.  We tend not to ask what detergent the filthy rich used to launder their money, or how they were able to keep it clean in the Cayman Islands, or how they can and indeed do launder it easily by investing in political candidates.  We may be distracted from observing how the filthy ill-begotten booty is recycled into the system through investments in SEC or IRS personnel, rather than the traditional Wall Street front-running and investment club bulk stock investments.  Investing in the politics in the morning is the best water upon which to cast your bread, for after not so many days, you will find it again in the evening, together with political capital to pay back the investor with an ambassadorship or season tickets or anything else of interest.  That kind of laundering is hard to find.  It can’t be traced by Washington’s washing machine rinse cycle which sends the filth down the drain together with the tax money of hard working people.  Thanks to the application of home appliances, the Washington shredders are busy at work to destroy any evidence while the washing machines use taxpayer money to keep the dirty currency as clean as a whistle which no one ever blows.

     “If you agree that all people are created equal,” he commented, “then they should at least be endowed with the same opportunity at gaining wealth in their quest to pursue happiness.  Think about how water and nutrients get distributed evenly across the tree so that leaves from all branches generally get the same opportunity to access necessary life-sustaining nutrients.  Except for the trunk perhaps, there is very little discrimination and virtually no special affluence in any particular healthy part of the tree.  All parts are equally affluent when they receive their rightful share of the currency material contained in the flowing current.  Do you at least agree that the ecosystem of the tree makes good sense?” 

     “Yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for human society.” I answered.  I was trying to make the comparison between the way nutrients are brought upward to leaves and the way wealth trickles down humans in a capitalist system.  I continued, “If people were like leaves, they would get monetary wealth without having to do anything.  They would be lazy and collect wealth in exchange for doing nothing.  The difference between leaves and people, in their wealth acquisition strategies, is that the tree-leaf nourishment system, when applied to human capitalism, doesn’t take into account that there are really talented and enterprising people who create new wealth.”

     “And if leaves were like people” he continued my train of thought, “one third of the nutrients passed through the roots would get to one percent of the leaves, while one half of this natural wealth would reach only one-fifth of the leaves.  It would result in trees having a dreadful imbalance, where most leaves would be unhealthy and wilting while a small percentage would be exceedingly healthy and large, taking up a noticeable one-third of the trees size.”

     I tried to imagine such a tree with leaves of different sizes, including a few of them being large giants.  I had trouble with that picture, and I don’t think I ever saw a child draw such a lop-sided tree.  I was having a problem conceiving of such a tree of inequality, and I think the extraterrestrial traveler realized that.

     I wonder about the trees.  The poets would probably contemplate why we wish to bear forever the noise of these which we suffer by the day.  I think that I shall never see a poem more lopsided than such a tree of inequality on which money wouldn’t grow, anyway. 

     While I was deliberating to little or no avail, the alien appeared to be pondering his next question.  I noticed that his head was pulsating in a queer way, although the rest of him appeared to be strangely stoic, even with his flapping head and weird unearthly appendages.  He was definitely a creature created from way outside this world, far, far away.

     He then continued his comparative observation of life on earth with a summation of terrestrial life in general:  “In a sense, the trees have an economy which requires them to cope with the same conditions that you humans must confront in your own economy.”

     I was genuinely intrigued.  It was clear to me that water is for the trees like money is for people.  I couldn’t resist asking anyway:  “How do the trees have an economy?”

     He paused for a few moments, apparently trying to measure his words before applying them.  “Essentially,” he responded slowly, “they share finite resources.  Sometimes they have to struggle for those that are limited such as soil, water, sunlight, and nutrients in the air.  Your philosopher Empedocles explained the universe as having four cosmogenic elements:  Earth, water, fire, and air.  This was primitive, but you had other philosophers from places other than ancient Greece that explained nature in the same way.   Although somewhat primitive, we on Zatox see the rationalization as rather ecologically and economically astute.  Trees compete for soil nutrients, rain runoff water, sunlight to be absorbed by the leaves, and air which the trees utilize in a respiration process that provides air for earthling animals to breathe and synthesize.”    

     I enjoyed the stimulating banter.  It sure was a welcome break from the repetitive resume submissions I was doing all morning.  I was pleased that I was able to keep up with my side of the conversation.  “I hadn’t given it much thought, but I guess the trees do compete with each other in the forest.”

     “You probably cannot see it from moment to moment in the human perception, but over extended time measured in months, seasons, or even years, there is an aggressively competitive struggle for finitely available but finite amounts of life-sustaining nutrients in the plant world.  Every particle of soil, every drop of water, every sunbeam of light, and every molecule of air is a resource over which the competition is fierce.  It is a highly competitive jungle out there.  It is an establishment without disses, a disestablishment with nothing anti, and at times an antidisestablishment.  Your forests are indeed rather antidisestablishmentarianismist.    

     Wow!  That long word, plus his Sasquatch-like feet made him a worthy Sesqua-ped-alien.  When we were just lads and lasses we used to be able to say “super-california-list-encyclopedia-cious”.  Today we can’t it say anymore, maybe because of banks.  Now we have become such sophisticated morons that all we can say, in a silly sophomoric style, having put a big-foot in our mouths is something sounding even more atrocious: “Super-Sesquipedalian-istic socialistic sasquatch”:  A particularly appropriate ditty describing my mesomorph being of metaphoric proportions, a decent friend who seemed to epitomize your typical susqui-ped alien sasqatch from your worst nightmares.

      The alien’s comment about fierce competition for resources in the forest seemed to make sense.   The competition was in many ways similar to the human economics.  His comment made me think not only about human beings, but also the organically competitive business entities they create.  In both cases resources are limited and have to be fought for. 

     Both natural organisms and business organizations are large and small, depending on how deeply rooted they are in the soil.  The longer they have been situated in place, the harder it is for new saplings to compete with them.  The smaller, younger trees are the more vulnerable challengers, while the older more established ones have an obvious competitive advantage.  This struck home particularly with small financial institutions competing with larger, more “grounded” ones. 

     New ideas are like saplings.  There is a risk in understanding them until they become popularly established. The question is, in a free market society how does a small tree compete against a large one for limited resources?  

     The alien thought a bit more, and added:  Your understanding of the life-giving elements goes back centuries, and explains why the ancient Greeks, thirsty for explanations and logical proofs regarding nature, placed Zeus at the top of the food-of-the-gods chain.  This bearded master was said to have thrown thunderbolts of fire during a thunderstorm brought about by air pressure differences in our atmosphere, while torrential downpours of water on the earth’s fertile soil would be absorbed by the terrestrial flora or collected into reservoirs where it could be drunk by all the creatures of mobility, regardless of their nobility.”

     The alien once again proved his mastery of getting to the roots of cause and effect.  I had been taught that thunderstorms were caused by clouds bumping into each other.  It didn’t help me understand the world, but did help me get to sleep on dark and stormy nights with all that frightening noise.

     His mention of Zeus was somewhat prophetic, however.  The importance of the planet Jupiter is frequently regarded as having been critically important to the planet Earth’s development into what it is today, because of its heavy mass that gravitationally attracts asteroids to it that otherwise might have crashed into our world.  But when these same scientists discuss the fate of our sun some billions of years from now, in which it is supposed to become a red giant whose volume encompasses the orbit of Earth, they often fail to mention that much of the mass of the sun will now be thrown off beyond the earth and quite possibly this will throw our scorched planet away from the sun.  As a dense white dwarf, our sun’s mass will be considerably less than before it will have lost a large amount of its mass and consequently will not have the same gravitational attraction it once had.  Depending on where Jupiter is in space, it could pull the Earth in, and if it doesn’t our planet will seek out a straight lined path out of the solar system and, if it doesn’t get pulled into Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, or an asteroid, it will seek its cold fortunes outside these former beltways.  

     The apocalyptic image was too much for me.  The alien’s color now made him look like ironically like a red giant, changing color again seemed to turn from light purple to dark red like a mood-ring.  I wondered if this was a side effect of the Darjeeling tea he drank earlier.  Does tea have an intoxicating effect on his species? 

     His next comment showed he was rather astute, even for an astral stranger from afar:  “For many humans of the hard-working class, every drop of purchasing power, every dollar is earned through hard labor, which is very often manifested in blood sweat and tears.”

     I knew that to be true.  Every dollar is a struggle for many people.  Also, each moment spent at work is an opportunity cost for the time one could otherwise be with family and loved ones.  The time spent at work is all too often is an expensive undertaking, yielding a payback of very few precious dollars.  And these dollars accumulate to amounts that are often not sufficient to sustain people in old age.

     The alien seemed himself to be wealthy, if that wealth was measured in ideas.  He now connected the dots between trees and humans with striking articulation:  “We on Zatox have listened extensively to your mainstream media, which seem to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about financial improprieties, fiduciary infractions, and even electioneering scandals.  We have turned to your Federalist Papers of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay to see whether societies of humans are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice.  Like these framers of your Constitution, we too are convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness.”

    I didn’t know how the alien’s planet was able to get information on our Federalist Papers.  Nor did I understand by what methods they were able to hone in on our carefully protected scandals, many of them as top-secret as Area 51.  How did his alien buddies get under the covers of the cover-ups?  Were they monitoring our cellphone conversations?  What incriminating documents were they privy to?  How classified were they?  We humans have become accustomed to a document’s life cycle.  From its birth to its death, printed incriminating evidence from emails or other communications goes through its own lifespan from printer to shredder and all the short-cuts in between.  With all the political evidence caught on paper, the incriminating emails on printed cheat-sheets get more ripped than a drunken sailor.  By the time the people want to know what a crooked official did in some bridge scandal, it would be too late.  The sheet has hit the fan.   And like the ripped-up document detailing evidence, the people are once again ripped off of information in another backstabbing cycle-of-knife by some reincarnated Jack-the-Ripper who would rip to shreds the Federalist Papers if given the chance. 

     I was all too aware of these reports.  The media were flooding us with them, together with campaign ads during elections and propaganda in between election cycles.  Unfortunately, all these innuendos and infighting serve to distract the viewers from the real issues and misdirect them towards some pseudo-enemy.  The rival is typically the “other” party, whether that was cratty or pubby, tea party or tree party, dinner party or Donner party.

     He then continued with an interesting interrogative:  “What do your hard-working people say about that?  Consider how they do not avoid doing hard work for their money, and that they do not evade their duty to pay taxes from those dollars that wind up in the hands of government officials, many of whom are corrupt and do not care about the working hands that feed them.”

     WOW!  Was he articulate!  Particularly in his use of the words “avoid” and “evade”.   The word “evade” had a meaning to us humans that was also rather evasive to us, one which we tried to avoid both words were so easily interchangeable.  One could “avoid” the truth just as well as “evade” the truth.  One could also try “avoiding” capture in the same action as “evading” capture.  But everyday English is significantly different from Tax English.  In the realm of the I.R.S. “avoiding” taxes is a rational pursuit, while “evading” them is a serious crime.  In that tax realm the difference is more than just a question of nuance and style.

     To his credit, there was no doubt he came prepared, and learned our language well.  Except for some occasional confusion entailing syntax issues in misplacing the word “not” when asking rhetorical questions, his grammar was perfect.  In addition, he had compiled a clear knowledge of issues regarding tax, sin tax issues from the IRS notwithstanding. 

     I could only hope that he hadn’t confused the word “invade” with the word “evade” when I asked if his race was surveying our planet with the attention to initiate a hostile takeover.  He could have succeeded at it single-handedly if he had wanted to; it was all for the taking.  His articulate speech could have generated popular support as long as the xenophobic voters didn’t get to see how unworldly he looked.  Dangling participles aside, it is well known that looks indeed mean a lot to our political candidates, although after the election they can prove to be most deceiving.

     Other than his visual appearance, I was convinced he could really run for public office if he wanted to acquire earth citizenship.  His interrogations and observations, however, indicated he wasn’t the least bit interested. 

      The alien then continued with his socialist banter:  “True patriotism starts with government.  A true patriot doesn’t scream about government spending so much.  Without government the constituent people cannot form a more perfect union.  Like water in a tree during a drought or money in circulation in an anemic system, it’s all about the circle of life.   The monetary equivalent of the lymph nodes must generate money in a system to be circulated all around the body with no short-circuits in the system.  Everyone should participate in the wealth.”

     The alien’s point that true patriotism starts with government was interesting, and it resonated with me. In order to for a more perfect union that preserved, protected, and defended the rule of law, we needed an army that is essentially union in nature, going back to even before the civil war with a rather pro-federate federal spin.   I was taught that such activity in this more perfect union makes it something of an intensively labor union even in a highly industrial military complex of complex proportions.  Could it be possible that I was taught wrong?  Today, a true patriot today is a Tea-Party Libertarian who screams about our government spending so much.   Do we do need to reform a more perfect union?

     He continued, “The millions – even billions of dollars of waste and scandals are so apparent, they literally beg questions from you humans.  Look at all the corporate money going to lobbying efforts rather than to hiring people such as yourself!” 

     The alien’s last comment made me think not only about public affairs committees – PACs – getting around election contribution rules, but also the question about what happens to campaign contributions after the elections are over.  Actually,  I understand what might happen to the money collected by a winning candidate, but what happens to all the money raised by the loser?  Does it go through a worm-hole or some gigantically massive black hole to the other side of the universe?

     I smiled, and he was patient, giving me time to think.  It seemed to me that our government simply didn’t want people to work.

     In the meantime the alien’s color turned to a bright olive green, which meant perhaps that he was in a state of suspenseful anticipation.  “I suppose waste is a nature of production,” I retorted.  “No matter how hard you set up a system, there will always be some waste”.

     Having said that, I thought for a moment that he would be disappointed in my comment, being something of a non-sequitur.  But apparently I did hit a nerve, wherever his nervous system was centralized.

     “Very good point!!!” he exclaimed.  “Systems do carry waste as a byproduct.  Take a look at your very own solar system.  Only a small portion of light beams radiated from your sun reach earth where they can be absorbed by leaves on a tree, or other plant life in the oceans.  Most of the sunbeams are wasted out in space, used only by alien intelligent worlds such as Zatox to see that there may be life out there in your solar system.” 

     I never thought of that before.  Maybe the sun is an attention grabber for alien worlds out there to find us through our shining star.  But if we are all alone anyway, the light that doesn’t reach us doesn’t reach anyone else out there, either.  Perhaps waste is a natural byproduct, and it is our inalienable duty to challenge ourselves to find creative ways take advantage of that waste and to turn it towards efficient utilization. 

     “And yet,” he continued, “since the days of Carnot, Thomson, Maxwell, Boltzmann, Planck, Clausius, Gibbs, Zeuner and many other of your scientists, you have understood the principles of Thermodynamics that teach us that work must be put into a system in order to drive that system and derive order from chaos.  But your founding fathers figured that out decades and even centuries before.  In fact, they probably used their intuitive and proven understanding of social behavior of people to begin deriving those scientific principles.

 

     “Jefferson and your other framers understood that a civil society can’t just for by itself.  It is not an going self-sustaining dynamo; nor it is a perpetual movement machine.  Civilization is an engine regulated with energy input like both Thermodynamics and Civics.  WORK must go into a system in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for yourselves and your posterity.”

 

     Wow!  He really knew what constituted our basic legal system.  He was arguing the legality of a justice system with its lawyers and judges, police departments, military, economy, and considered the long-term benefits to succeeding generations.  In this sense we the people could be seen as the original constituent particles of confederation.

     He then continued with his elucidation, looking at me with those optical observing protrusions corresponding to body parts he probably called eyes and said gently but firmly: “If you humans contributed to your society more like leaves do in trees, your socio-economic system would be equitable for all, and there wouldn’t be anybody out of work like yourself.”

      Now he really touched on a point that I could identify with.  I wouldn’t mind the notion of redistribution of wealth, as long as I would have the opportunity to earn that wealth.  Many people associate the distribution of wealth with socialism.  I was very much against Marxist dogmatic ideology for the suffering it caused to people during the twentieth century but could see the point he was trying to make.  At the same time, many of us consider communism as evil because of the repression and violation of human rights over the years. No person could in good conscience go along with that. 

     So I had to protest emphatically:  “What you’re saying would sound to many of us like anti-capitalist sentiment.  People aren’t like leaves.  Some are productive while others aren’t.   Here on earth, we have some people who are like leaves, some who are like branches who supervise the leaves, and some are like the roots without which there would be no leaves.  The root is like the CEO, the secondary roots are like upper management, the large branches are middle management, and the closer you get to the leaves the lesser are the resources that are available.  That’s how our compensation system works. We don’t really know any other way.  As I said, we tried an economic theory called socialism, but the twentieth century proved it to be a failure.”

     He apparently felt the need to interject at this point, aware of my own prejudices.  “Of course humans are not leaves. But the function of the leaves in their tree-society is equitable in what you would say, a win-win situation.  That is what I meant when I said that we on Zatox have found that the tree as a society is smarter than human beings when they form a society.  We feel that comparing humans to a tree is quite appropriate and gets to the root of the situation, even if it seems to you as a radical idea.”

     “Radical is right”, I answered, taking mental note of the statement I just made.  “Somewhat revolutionary, in fact.”

     “Actually, I was using your word ‘radical’ in its original sense.  The English word ‘radical’ comes from the Latin root word ‘radix’ which means ‘root’.  The radix of your problems is your unfairness and inequality when it comes to the diversification of money resources so that all people can enjoy their – if you pardon the expression - unalienable rights.”

     Of course I pardoned the expression.  He was after all, an alien, and didn’t have any inalienable rights, I suppose.  He was more like a denizen than a citizen.   I found his explanation of the word “radical” particularly enlightening.  It made me think:  Is a religious radical an extremist fanatic who focuses on the roots of his religion, or is he in fact a deviant from the roots of his faith?  Were the terrorists of 9-11 radicals, or were they in effect acting outside the mainstream of their faith?

   “You humans need to look a bit deeper at your condition” he said with a sardonic tone.  “You need to pay attention to the visceral things that are really going on even in your own backyard.  The trees are a good place to start.”

     Now I understood.  Like someone who may at times miss the forest for the trees, I may have been missing the trees for the leaves.  In order to make sure we were comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, I had to clarify for myself that we were comparing societies to societies.  In this case, a human society can compare to a single tree and an individual can be considered a leaf.

     “As you like to say sometimes:  Work with me, pal!  As with thermodynamics, energy needs to be placed into the system in order for that system to be sustained.  And as your scientists understand, energy is equivalent to work through the equation ½mv2.  Without work to go into the system, your society will disintegrate.  Someone has to establish justice, provide for defense, and promote your welfare.  Someone should be finding work for those long-term unemployed who earnestly want to work by deploying them where they are needed.”

     This connection was interesting.  I never heard it said that way before.  Although I was against excessive social order and government interference, I did understand that a certain level of regulation was necessary provided it was not overplayed.

     After thinking for a while with the intention of resolving this intriguing issue, I concluded: “I guess that we have to rely on our wealthy individuals to invest in that work, and not government.”

     “That does indeed make sense, human, particularly when referring to what you call ‘the 1%’.  But we from Zatox have noticed that human nature tends to greedy and that the 1% are risk adverse and do not want to take chances with their vast fortunes.”

     I understood what he was saying about vast fortunes, particularly in considering all the vast cash resources unused but closed up in far-away places such as Cayman Islands bank accounts.  It seems like that money is locked up, as is the wasted talent that could be deployed and hired in order to enhance social value.

     Some time ago I came to a conclusion about our closed circuit money flow:  Political interest has generated a systemic flow of political propaganda and campaign ads which feed the cable media.  Then, the cable news feeds the viewers by making them dizzy with a particular brand of promotional spin.  This closed circuit is impenetrable by any value proposition.  It is like a beltway loop that circumvents the capital but never gets to it, so that much needed capital expenditures are rarely used by those who race around the inner loop or outer loop.

     This closed circuit TV systemic flow of politics to media and back to politics is a realm which has its own set of thermodynamic laws.  The vast amounts of money have nothing to do with real value which can energize employment and the movement of the particles of society.  If only there were a way to draw from that closed circuit and enable more money to go from the political trash bin to the valued reserve for social growth and development.  But, then, they don’t teach the laws of thermodynamics at law school.          

     “On Zatox,” the alien continued, we are well aware of the caste systems your societies have held.  Just as one example, the ancient Hawaiian Alii aristocracy would hold a special cushioned place in society, while the clergy Cohen-like Kahunas, the priestly class would comprise its own distinct estate.  The caste system would also include the working class of Maka’āinana fishermen, canoe builders and other commoners, and the lowly war captives known as the Kāuwa.  Your human civilizations have many such caste systems even today.”

     Some us humans would say that with all the climate change going on, trees that used to “go to sleep” in the winter are having restless nights.  This wouldn’t be good for the forest, if our temperate climate were indeed heating up like the hot-tempered political climate.  In any case I wasn’t sure if global warming was actually taking place, as there were political arguments claiming and refuting this possibility.  The change in climate may after all be nothing more than an issue of political science rather than one of traditional science.

    I was beginning to see all types of parallels between leaves and persons, and between the branches representing the banks and the roots portraying the government.  The parallels were even more striking when considering US the people.

     We are like an organism’s constituent cells organized in order to form a body that functions in more perfect unison, and if these cells work in coordinated harmony they flow through the bloodstream like water in a tree or money in an economy.  The organization’s head contains the knowledge based working capital of the body, and at the heart of the body is the pump which supplies oxygen and glucose through the bloodstream to the brain’s neurons.  

 

     Even if unused cells don’t die off from atrophy, the organs they are supposed to nourish can be permanently damaged.  Cerebral hypoxia is irreversible, especially in an organized community that may not have the objective thinking capacity to realize that oxygen deprivation and necrosis has resulted in a society brain-dead due.  No matter how powerful the liquid oxygen fuel consumed to ignite the spark, both neurons and rockets won’t fire.  How can we revive body when tits once magnificent mind’s grey matter has been burned at the stake so many times?   Is this the initial trigger that can cause a nation loses its ranking in competitive education with falling math and reading scores?  Is this what we really want?  Is this that “ouch” cry that the organization’s nervous system is saying?  

 

     In the human organization so much is at stake, not just the community mind.  People need to be doing things that make them feel valuable.  The body and soul need sustenance and purpose; inspiration and regeneration; creation and recreation.  For every creation there is an equal and opposite recreation.  One is necessary for the embodiment of the other.  And who knows?  Maybe our collective brain is resilient enough to recover from its atrophy. 

 

    Actually, I have to admit I am concerned about this mental atrophy and the dumbing-down of creativity.  It may be a consequence of cultural oversaturation as too many things become familiar icons to the collective mentality.  The question is, between the crises of rising sea-levels and falling IQs, can we ever recover from the loss of mental aptitude?  Is the brain-damage temporary or is it irreparable?  Is it reversible?  Is it cyclic?  Is it organic?

    In order to break an awkward silence which had been building up, I said rather benignly, “So maybe in a tree society, unhealthy leaves should be cut off from the tree.  After all, if they had really contributed to the tree’s health they would be considered useful.”

    The alien thought for a moment about what I had just said, and then remarked:  “But trees do more than just that.  The system does not cuts off leaves, unless a branch becomes infected with some externally carried disease.  Besides, the leaves actually do contribute to the wealth – I mean health – of the tree.”

    The alien’s Freudian slip which intertwined health and wealth was rather unexpected.  It made me wish Dr. Freud would have entered this dream in order to interpret it, if it indeed was a beam – I mean dream.  Anyway, I decided not to comment on the alien’s Freudian-slip-of-the-tongue, if indeed he had had one.  I’m sure he did, and it seemed as sharp as his other appendages, whatever they were. 

     But Sigmund did not show up.  I guess wishing things in a dream doesn’t always make it so.  This made me wonder whether the alien’s visit was a dream at all, or was it a manifestation of reality.  We were, after all, discussing the painful aspects of reality. 

    He continued with his arbor analysis, unabated.  “Through photosynthesis,” this interstellar scientist continued his lecture “the trees collect sunlight, enabling them to initiate chemical reactions that ultimately synthesize glucose from the carbon dioxide which animal life has exhaled.  In this way the tree provides nutrients not only for its own sustenance, but for all breathing organisms on your planet earth.  This enables respiration as the cells absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen for the animal world to breathe.  The contribution which the leaves make is not only for the tree itself, but for the external environment in which the tree thrives, too.”

     “I never heard of it put that way.  Trees are so important for many other reasons” I added, so engrossed in his thinking, making sure I was writing everything he was saying on paper.    

     “But the leaves are absolutely necessary to sustain the tree”, he continued.  “By being positioned to absorb sunlight, the leaves use photosynthesis to enable the conversion of light energy into chemical activities that keep the tree alive, producing oxygen, carbon, and other nutrients for other life forms on the surface of your planet.”

     This was a very interesting point.  I tried to argue in favor of the humanity gritty, but when looking around what was happening these days with oil spills, deforestation, climate change, and other things I hear about in the media, I found myself utterly confused.  Unlike all the politicians everywhere, I was now speechless.

     Then the alien continued with this profound thought that had the opposite effect of confounding me even further:  “Wherever you are on your planet, from the peak of Everest to the Challenger Deep crevice of the Marianas Trench - life always matters most, whether dark or grey or light.” 

     That profound thought confounded me a bit.  It was like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s quote “wherever you go, there you are.” Or Yogi Berra’s “nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.”

     I didn’t know if the alien was referring to dark matter in our expanding universe or the grey matter between our ears or light itself as energy’s long-lost relative.  In this double-entendre, he could have been referring to the absurdity of racial discrimination on our profoundly confounded planet. 

     It seems today that no attention is being given to the actual roots of our problems.   I don’t mean to sound like another talking head among our walking dead.  It’s just that nobody seems to be listening…even the trees have fallen silent.

     I was curious if the alien knew something about solving our problem we humans didn’t seem to have a clue to unlock the mystery.  Did the alien have any solutions to understanding the causes of our economic woes?  Did he have any ideas about how could he help us understand our complicated tax code?  Did he have some Pecksniffian magic that could help us to decipher it?  Funny how the Spanish word for “more” is the phonetic Hebrew word for tax:  “mas.”  Maybe that’s the connection:  No matter how much taxes you may pay, you could always pay more in taxes.  The more massive taxes fall mas on the masses.

     If the alien did have such a solution, why couldn’t he simply tell us what it was?  In the absence of elementary concepts, would he be interfering with our own development if he violated some prime directive to give us even a little hint?   What sort of novel Nobel genius-type solutions were there out there, anyway?  Fuzzy financial quick-draw-jaw, black-jack VIP taxing?  Vamp-crazy rough-draft tax status quos?  Something is missing here.

     Curious about all this, I asked the alien:  “Do you think there is some way humans can form an equitable society that is fair to both its constituents and to itself simultaneously?”  

     As if to have an answer all ready, the alien replied:  “I never said humans could be fair and equitable in their societies, as they have never proven they are able to do so.  With all your wars and suffering, inequalities and unfairness, greed and avarice, arrogance and ignorance, we have never seen evidence of that equitable fairness.  That is why we on Zatox have come to the conclusion that your human socio-economic societies, whether they are capitalism or socialism or fascism, whether they are democratic or dictatorial in nature could never be as smart as the ecosystem found in a tree.”

     This last comment made me think.  All I could do at this point was stare with starry eyes into those of the alien’s which weren’t exactly eyes, but rather some other ocular protrusion.  In any case, I was hoping for a clarification that would alleviate the insult.

     I suppose we tend to neglect the trees.  Without them there would be no air, and without air there would be no fire…money would not be relevant anymore as there would be no one to spend it.  So, in fact, money really DOES grow on trees.

     Then he changed color again, this time to a bright orange.  I didn’t know what that meant, but I was curious to find out. 

     Although I wasn’t abducted, the notion of space travel to other worlds truly captivated me, and I couldn’t wait to hear more.

     After an awkward silence which seemed to last the duration of the earth’s silent era, he at last brought me back down to earth, in terms of cordiality, anyway:  “Thank you very much for the Darjeeling tea; I really never had anything like it.  It was truly a unique experience.”

     He put down the cup and I noticed for the first time that his hand had eight fingers, as did his other one, albeit with the same symmetry our hands had.  Maybe this double octet gave his species some advantage to our symmetry we mammals and vertebrates developed.   It was one of the most important developments since our slithery-dee ancestors first crawled out of the sea onto dry land in some brackish lagoon saturated with Silurian slime. 

     I was mulling over his comments…it then occurred to me that by his most recent color morph, something was going to change.  I just didn’t know to what…  

 

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