A Tree Fell and Changed the World (Was it design or Chance?)
On a beautiful autumn day, a little gray squirrel buried an acorn in the woods next to a farmer’s field. The acorn was just one of the many thousand that the squirrel stored in hollow trees or buried in the ground in preparation for the coming winter. As often happens, the little squirrel’s instinctive memory failed and it forgot about the acorn. When spring at last arrived, the little nut sensed the sun’s warmth and germinated. It sent a little green finger upward to the light and warmth according to its DNA instructions.
Over a hundred years later that little acorn had matured into a giant oak tree. It towered over all the other trees around it and grew a massive trunk five feet in diameter to support its huge weight. That beautiful tree might have lived another hundred years if it had not grown so tall. During a summer storm, a lightning bolt searching for the tallest tree found the oak and struck it a lethal blow. The upper branches and trunk came crashing to the ground, leaving a gaping wound exposed to the elements and insects. Ten years later it was dead and had lost all its branches and bark. It had dropped its last leaf and acorn long ago. Now, the descendants of the little gray squirrel lived in the tree and stored acorns there. Woodpeckers were regular visitors to the decaying tree, feasting on grubs and insects that infested it. Fungus and termites called it home. What was left of the great oak was ready to come down and be recycled into the good earth according to nature’s directions. It would provide nutrients for ferns, shrubs and a host of other plants including several tree saplings around it that were reaching for the sun, as it had so many years ago. Nature was doing what it had done for billions of years. Trees have grown and fallen in forests all over the planet well before the time when human ancestors lived in their branches. All was working perfectly well in nature’s realm. Nature was renewing itself.
Since the little acorn was planted much had changed around it. The farm had been replaced by private homes and roads, one of which passed not more than twenty feet from the dead tree. The road making machines had hastened the tree’s demise by cutting through some of its life-giving roots. Perhaps the squirrels and birds heard the tree groan in distress as those roots were severed.
Then one evening, the squirrels felt a tremor and the forty-foot trunk began to lean toward the road. The next tremor sent them scampering out of the dead tree to safety in neighboring trees. They watched excitedly as the tree trembled and leaned a little more. The decayed trunk close to the ground began to disintegrate from the great weight above it. Then, with no more than a soft, crackling sound, the tree began to fall. At first the fall was almost imperceptible, but as it approached the ground it picked up speed as gravity did its thing. The tree landed with the crushing sound of splitting wood and crumpling metal. And then, all was silent except for the sound of hissing steam escaping from a ruptured radiator. The squirrels had no idea how that event had changed and ended human lives.
The old tree had fallen toward the nearby road and, as chance had it, landed directly upon a passing car. The unfortunate occupants of the car were all killed except for a young girl who had been thrown to the back seat floor and had missed the fate of her father, mother and brother. The girl’s luck was as good as her family’s was bad.
The father, a preacher at a local church, was mourned by his parishioners who could not bring themselves to believe this was just a freak accident. There had to be some meaning to the event. Standing before three coffins, another preacher pronounced, “God’s hand was on that tree. How else can we explain something that precise? It was time for him.” Presumably it was also time for his wife and son. Obviously, the tiny acorn, the forgetful squirrel, the lightning, the road, the termites, the decay, and many other prior events, including the speed of the car, were all part of the Lord’s divine and elaborate plan, set in action over a hundred years ago, with the express intent to crush three innocent humans. Truly, our loving Lord works in mysterious and wondrous ways.
(Based on a news item in The Indianapolis Star, 2002)
This tragic story is true and represents millions of similar events that strike down innocent children and adults every day. Squirrels accept such events without lingering thought or regrets, but humans cannot. Humans must find hidden meaning. Religious leaders claim they know the mind of their God. They give their God praise for health but never blame for illness; praise for life but never blame for death; praise for victory but never blame for defeat. What kind of lame reasoning is this? What kind of rationalization is this? Why do religious leaders prey upon the ignorance and superstition of their followers? Why do some humans swallow fabulous claims while others reject them? Why are there skeptics and doubters among the gullible?
I believe superstition provided a survival advantage in the infancy of humanity. But, will this superstitious thought pattern continue to be an advantage to modern humans? I think not. Humanity is in the process of taking a gradual but huge evolutionary step toward reason based upon scientific fact. Superstition is on the wane. We don’t need it to answer questions anymore. There are better ways to satisfy our curiosity and answer the mysteries of life and death.