The Giving Tree and Mother

Image for post
Image for post

There is no question about it — Taoism is a pro-feminine philosophy. Lao Tze refers to the Tao as the “doorway of the Mysterious Female.” The Tao can be compared to the Mother, the Source of all things. He also said that “superior good is like water.” Water seeks the low place. It does not dominate.

Many children books have deep spiritual meaning. When I was teaching at my local elementary school, I encountered the children book, The Giving Tree. I found the story very sad, but also very touching and educational. It is about the dangers of greed. If we become too greedy in taking the resources from nature and don’t give back, we will find depletion one day.

This story has wide applications in religion(teaching the danger of greed and unbridled desires), in human relationships (teaching the importance of reciprocity), and in economics and in environmental concerns. When I first read the story, I immediately compare the Giving Tree to Mother Nature. In modernity, the relationship between humans and nature is that of domination and exploitation. Man is always trying to dominate and conquer nature for his own gains. He keeps taking and nature keeps giving. But this process is unsustainable. There is a limit as to how much nature can continue to give.

Such relationship of dominance is played out in many other arenas — in gender relationships in the patriarchal society, in the relationship between the industrialized West and the Third World, in colonialism, in slavery, in the confrontation between Western civilization and pre-modern/aboriginal cultures and in the exploitation of workers in modern capitalism. It is the story of Yang dominating Yin. Essentially, it is the story of the people who set themselves apart from nature dominating those who are close to nature, such as the Native Americans.

Since the beginning of modernity, man has exercised his power to conquer, subjugate and exploit nature for his own benefits. This seems to work for the last 500 years or so. But will he destroy himself in the end? Perhaps this is what the current crisis of climate change is telling us. There is no indefinite taking, no permanent growth and no lasting domination. At some point, Mother Nature bites back.

This is why ecofeminism makes sense. We need to find ways to counterbalance the overbearing Yang, which is too strong and aggressive for his own good.

Published author, Zen teacher, professor, scientist, philosopher, social commentator, socially-engaged human

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store