Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Of trees and things

Sitting in a meeting today I chanced to look out the window and noticed the leaves of a very large tree gently swaying in the breeze.

It is always fascinating to see how every bit of the universe keeps on moving quite oblivious to the rest of it. This tree has seen multiple governments, economy booms and busts, it must have been there when this city was new and sparsely populated, and through it all it just kept on swaying in the breeze - playing its appointed role in the universe. 

There are all kinds of ‘laws’ of physics and principles of biology and botany which explain why the tree looks like it does and why its leaves sway in the breeze. And every time the breeze picks up the leaves on the tree sway dutifully. All very deterministic, all very predictable, all very neat.

Why do we humans think we’re so different? Surely I was sitting in that meeting room based on some pretty clear principles - which I don’t understand, but which are there all the same. The tree followed the ‘laws’ of physics and biology even when these laws had not been discovered by us. Quite possibly we follow the laws of human behaviour even though we don't fully comprehend them.Very deterministic. 

Of course I’m not going to solve the old deterministic vs free will question just by looking at a tree - but it certainly something to ponder.

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