Tree: Essays & Pieces
Includes The Woman Who Slept with Men to Take the War Out of Them
Preface to the Second Edition:
These two books were fifteen years ahead of their time. If only they were outdated now. Unfortunately, cancer is more rampant and the Generals on our planet abound. The questions I raised years ago gather increasing urgency: How can we go to the General without becoming the General? Can love heal violence and war?
Cancer and the General are one and we are equally their victims. To each, we must respond in new ways, if we are to escape from the cycle of destruction. Ultimately, we are defeated when we bombard our bodies with destructive weapons in order to cure them, though, at the present time, we have few other treatments. Ultimately, we are not protected by making war on the Generals – one General only leads to another – though at the present time we claim to have no other strategies. War is a cancer. And cancer makes war on us. And so it goes.
Statistically, medical advances in the last fifteen years have made little, if any difference in the survival rate from cancer. But there is evidence that ancillary methods, holistic approaches, are improving the length and quality of people’s lives. Similarly, recent wars, international as well as civil, prove that any war is a war against ourselves. Increasingly, there are no winners. The world has become too small, small as our bodies. When we attack one part of it, we attack the whole and we all suffer. And even as we pride ourselves on scientific and technological advances we are increasingly aware that through progress and its demands, we have devastated the environment. But there is also evidence that simpler and more ecological ways of living are also deeply satisfying and restore the soul.
When I wrote Tree, I was looking for the threatened life force within myself. Now I look for the similarly threatened life force of the planet. Knowing full well the extent of environmental and socio-political factors in cancer, it is essential to look within ourselves and find those hidden conditions which make us vulnerable to the disease. I began by looking for the silences within – for cancer is silence, erupting and struggling to give voice to the unutterable. Simultaneously I looked for imperialism within, for cancer is a larger political metaphor. Finding these within and without I began to imagine new ways of responding; building, in effect, new worlds governed by new laws.
We have no choice if we wish to survive, but to discover healing and peacemaking as tactical and expedient responses to current conditions. In order to heal, we must search out what is lethal within and toxic without, scrutinizing the psyche, body politic and environment in order to transform our lives accordingly. Illness and the violated planet demand this.
It has come to this. The same actions which will heal us of physical diseases, heal our societies, physically and politically. One action and a multitude of possibilities. Can love heal war? Can love heal our lives? We will have to discover how, for there is no alternative.
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Published by North Atlantic Books