I FINALLY found meaning in Heidegger. Unable to penetrate the German philosopher’s writings about Being, I escaped from my notes to stare out of the window and noticed that the trees growing in front of the house look peaky.
Rain or shine, Martin Heidegger’s world of Dasein offers no respite, but I took the excuse anyway to water the trees at day’s end. Most mornings leave a film of dew but it soon dissipates in the aridity of the day.
These clusters of trees are offshoots of fruit peelings and seeds turned into humus. One of the trees briefly flowered but none has borne fruit yet. From the times I’ve pricked myself on the trees’ prominent green thorns, I am fairly certain these cannot be calamansi (native lemon). Dalandan (native oranges) and lemons are other lazy guesses.
Despite not knowing the nature of these sapling trees, I gaze at them often, even without being driven by Heidegger’s “tortured intensity.” One of the trees has been claimed by a Brown Shrike. Resembling a masked bandit, with a dash of black streaking behind its eyes, this fat brown fellow is brave and daring, frequently perched on a spike-covered branch while loudly insulting the lounging neighborhood cats that watch it, with metronome tails.
According to Amado C. Bajarias Jr.’s “A Field Guide to Flight,” the Shrike (“Tarat” to the Tagalogs, “Tibalas” to the Visayans) has a fearsome reputation, going by the name of “Butcher Bird” because it impales its prey on spikes and thorns before tearing it apart.
One afternoon, I looked closely at the tree’s thorns to see if this bandit bird left gruesome trophies but found instead that the trees were exuding from their bark globules of amber. Dark-tinted and clear, the substance gave off a piny scent.
I was entranced with the amber crystal balls, which resemble the Palantir that Pippin stole from Gandalf in the Orthanc—a scene from J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy—until I read from the Net that this ooze is gummosis, or the tree’s essence leaking from wounds or cuts sustained from “environmental stress,” damage from machines or infestation.
Heidegger supported National Socialism, the doctrine of the Nazi Party that persecuted and killed Jews, blacks, women and the Others not considered part of the Aryan master race. In the book considered as a canon in Continental Philosophy, “Being and Time (Sein und Zeit),” Heidegger postulates that Dasein is the mode of being unique to humans. One interpretation is that while plants and animals are driven to reproduce and survive, only humans choose the lives they lead.
If a lower form such as a tree can bleed beauty, shouldn’t the wounds of Dasein bear fruits other than ugliness?