Cheap Seats 2022 By Rich Trzupek
Heart of Oak - 09/07
By Rich Trzupek
There once was a mid-sized Midwestern town that hit upon a unique scheme to improve the quality of life of its residents and help improve the health of the planet at the same time. The name of the town has been lost to history, but for purposes of our story let us call the town “Responsibility.”
The citizens of Responsibility – for the most part – took very seriously their duty to maintain a healthy planet Earth and to promote well being and prosperity among all residents of the town of Responsibility. To further that mission, the city council proposed setting aside a given number of fertile acres within city limits that would be dedicated to developing a grove of mighty oak trees.
Oaks are long-lived, very resistant to pests and the lumber they eventually provide is prime stuff. All agreed that planting oak trees was good for the future of the planet. Making the town of Responsibility the “Oak Tree Capital of the Midwest” was surely a good thing.
Residents of Responsibility were urged – but not required – to claim plots in the nascent oak grove. If one claimed a plot, one accepted the responsibility to care for the seedlings that would be planted there.
Some months after all the plots were claimed and seeded, young oak sprouts began to appear. It was at this point that a property developer entered the picture. The developer offered a great deal of money to create a new sub-division, which would necessarily eliminate creation of the grove.
The developer offered a bunch of money for each plot, far more than each would be valued on strictly economic terms but for the profit to be made by building the subdivision.
The residents of Responsibility who owned the plots were divided, roughly down the middle. Some wished to sell their plot to the developer. They would make a huge profit and, if they wished, they could always start another plot somewhere else at some other time.
Others protested that selling the plots was immoral. Those who sold were stepping away from a promise they had made. That promise, the dissenters said, was not merely a promise made with the town of Responsibility, it was also a promise made to the future. It was a promise to help ensure the continued advance of life. What cause could be more noble?
The sellers disagreed, of course. They were not selling mighty oaks, were they? They were surrendering mere saplings, incapable to providing either acorns or lumber, not even mature enough to grow bark. These were not oaks they said, these were mere conjecture. The many forces of nature could, and in many cases probably would, choke out their existence long before they reached maturity.
The dissenters thought otherwise. They acknowledged, with different degrees of regret, the right of the sellers to manage their land as they saw fit. At the same time, the dissenters mourned the dissolution of a dream – a dream so very common-place in human history: the dream of stepping into a better world.
For the dissenters did not view the oak samplings as conjecture. They believed that once they had planted each seed and the conditions were in place to make that seed sprout a miracle had occurred. Life had sprung out of, if not actuality in the physical sense, at least as potential.
For them, harvesting the sapling was the same as mindlessly cutting down the enormous resource that the sapling would become when it became mature 100 years or so later. For them, the mighty oak and the impact that each mighty oak could have on the world was not a matter involving immediate personal satisfaction or personal hardship. The act of planting the seeds and nurturing them was, for these folks, a matter that combined the wonder of physical being and the mystery of spiritual existence in equal measures. They viewed themselves as stewards of life as they believed it to be, in both realms.
To them, the process was the miracle, much more so than the ultimate product. It is easy to value the shade and majesty that a magnificently tall and broad oak provides after a century of development. It’s another thing entirely to appreciate and protect the sapling that might grow into that wonderous sight given a few score years.
There were, of course, citizens of both points of view who chose to demonize and insult those of another way of thinking. Such has life always been and, no doubt, will always be. But, the vast majority of those who chose to hold onto their oak saplings and enjoy watching them mature did not condemn those who acted otherwise. Certainly the dissenters hoped for a different outcome. But, for them, there was a huge chasm between approving the seller’s choices and encouraging the seller to reconsider their decision.
Those who defended and exerted their right to treat the land they held and anything that grew upon it in any way they saw fit styled themselves “pro choice.” Those who wished and prayed that miracle of existence could be preserved whenever and wherever it happened to occur styled themselves “pro-life.”
End of story.