Our «wooden» future (our future as trees)

A girl from a town in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains has written a strange book — How I Became a Tree.

Who wouldn’t want to be a tree at least once in their life? That is it!

Sumana Roy wanted to, and she couldn’t either. But she has written a book in which she writes about how it is not easy to be a human being in the modern world.

Sumana Roy wants to become a tree. For this, strange as it may seem, she has many reasons, but perhaps the most important one is that she is tired of the rhythm of modern life.

«I was tired of speed. I wanted to live to tree time» writes Sumana Roy, but after reading the book it becomes clear that Sumana is far from being a tree, but an English teacher at Ashoka University in Haryana, India.

At the heart of the book is, of course, concern about the growing violence in the world, hatred, insincerity, greed and selfishness. The author is drawn to the wisdom of trees, their non-violent way of life, their ability to cope with loneliness and pain.

Roy carefully reads what prominent people of the past — writers, artists, scientists and spiritual leaders, from Ovid to Rabintranath Tagore, from William Shakespeare to Margaret Atwood, and — of course — the Buddha sitting under a Bodhi tree — have learnt from their interactions with trees.

Sumana Roy explores the relationship people have had and can have with trees — but this is not a scientific book. It is full of reflections, even meditations on forests, on plant life, on time, on the self, on the exhaustion of being human, written and told in the relaxed rhythm of the trees themselves.

Sumana Roy writes about people who love trees, writes even about what it’s like to have sex with a tree (it’s rather metaphysical), writes about people who marry trees (which is real, there have been such cases), and explores the death of trees and their resurrection.

The book combines literary history, theology, philosophy, botany, and more, but doesn’t seem overwhelming, encouraging the reader to slow down and imagine themselves in a magical world where people live as trees.

This is definitely a love song to plants and trees, an ode to all that is unnoticed, neglected, but still — alive. In short, this song is about us, and our future as trees.

We’ll sing it someday alltogether.

Sumana Roy. How I Became a Tree. Yale University Press, New Haven. 2021. 180 p.

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