An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
of May 11, 2003
issued from the woods just south of Natchez, Mississippi, USA


I've always mistrusted that phrase, "The meaning of life." It's because the word "meaning" carries with it an implied context of rationality. Yet, it seems to me that anyone who asks that question should be expecting a reply that is spiritual, if not mystical.

The Red Mulberry with its sweet, purple-staining fruits got me thinking about this. There I was in the cool twilight beneath the tree looking up through those big, sun-speckled mulberry leaves, seeing the pretty green, red and almost-black fruits, my sunburned, wrinkled, veiny hands among them plucking mulberries and getting purple-stained, and hearing the wind in the tree, and birds singing, seeing the animation of leaves in the wind, experiencing a kaleidoscopic, shimmering, wholly unexpectedly beautiful and perfect moment, and this thought came to me:

This tree's task was simply to create reproductive propagules (seeds) and to get them dispersed into new areas where its offspring might prosper. There were so many ways this goal could have been accomplished, yet the Red Mulberry's approach was to create a strategy involving all this sunlight, wind, birdsong and sweet fruit. How elegant! How original! How generous of the Creator to have settled on things this way!

If someone were to propose that "the meaning of the fruit is that the tree may reproduce itself," then all that was meaningful to me that day as I myself became the Red Mulberry's dispersal agent would be eliminated from the discussion. The word "meaning" is too narrow to use when considering something as wonderful as ripe mulberries.

In the same way, any statement beginning "The meaning of life is that... " automatically declares itself as an analysis too arid to listen to. Facebook Icon.