Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Sandalwood Tree

The Sandalwood Tree

The sandalwood tree shares its lovely scent
with any who come near. 
God is like that. 

Does the tree ever think to itself,
I am not going to offer my fragrance to that man 
because of what he did last night,

or to that woman who neglected her child,
or because of what we might have ever done? 

It is not the way of God to hoard.
He is simply there,
emanating freely,
if we wish to grab a handful
or fill the basket of the eye. 

           This reminded me of a passage in Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning in which he explains that as the conditions of life worsened, he experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before.
           "In camp, a man might draw the attention of a comrade working next to him to a nice view of the setting sun shining through the tall trees of the Bavarian woods (as in the famous water color by Dürer), the same woods in which we had built an enormous, hidden munitions plant. One evening, when we were already resting on the floor of our hut, dead tired, soup bowls in hand, a fellow prisoner rushed in and asked us to run out to the assembly grounds and see the wonderful sunset. Standing outside we saw sinister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from steel blue to blood red. The desolate grey mud huts provided a sharp contrast, while the puddles on the muddy ground reflected the glowing sky. Then, after minutes of moving silence, one prisoner said to another, 'How beautiful the world could be!'" 
       I decided to look up the referenced watercolor, Pond in the Woods, by Albrecht Dürer. Dürer lived in the 15th century and painted many things, but his watercolors mark him as one of the first European landscape artists. He also was a mathematician, engraver, printmaker, and theorist. For Viktor Frankl to recall this painting at the depths of human despair says a lot about his own character, but also gives such an ethereal glow to the work of Dürer. It would be a lovely reminder of the triumph of the human spirit to hang this print in your home. 

Pond in the Woods (1500s), Albrecht Dürer

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