Food for thought

TED talks:

A text sent by Maureen Quinn, a few months before her cancer took her, aged 23, in January 1981.

Again I am sitting at the edge of the woods, now the color of my world has changed.   Autumn is here and the trees are ablaze with many colors – the burgundy of the dog wood, its branches now tipped with clusters of scarlet drapes; the rich old gold of tulip tree and hickory; the bright clean yellow of sugar maple and birch; the mauve and tarnished bronze of ash; the burning reds and oranges of red maple, sumach, and sassafras, the somber greens, browns and purples of oaks.  I try to understand the message of the trees by giving my thoughts free rein.  I feel great patience and tenacity, humility and acceptance of the inevitable – qualities that well befit proud man.  I think about the purpose of all life and ask myself: What is the purpose of a tree?  What is the purpose of an animal?  What is the purpose of man?  And it occurs to me that perhaps the purpose of all living things is simply living – to play our nature-assigned role in the great drama of life; to participate, be it on ever so modest a scale, in the orderly unfolding of the cosmos.  Unknowingly if a tree: instinctively, if an animal; with full awareness, if man.  To take what we need, but no more.  To know that we exist on borrowed substance.  And, when the time we are given has run out, to return this substance to the great treasury of the earth so that other living things may use it again and, in using it, pass on that mysterious force we call life.  To be of open mind and free of prejudice, feeling, though human, related to the animals and plants, a cog in the machinery of the universe, a humble yet vital part, privileged to wield immense power, yet honor-bound to respect the rights of other living things.  And, above all, to treasure the gift of life.

“Trees” by Andreas Feininger (1968)

Maureen hand-wrote this section of text in 1981. I rediscovered the page 37 years later, with no source and 4 letters illegible. In 2019, Turnitin resolved the mysteries.

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