March 1st, 2005

alice lost in labyrinth

The Dream of (Slow Speaking) Trees

"Hail, mother," said Archimedes. "I have brought you a young human, who is to learn things, by decree."
When the Wart came to think about it afterwards, he realized that he had not only never seen the goddess but that he had also never heard her speak. The owl spoke, and he spoke; but the words of Athene did not come out of a mouth.
"This part," said Archimedes with a sort of purr, "is at the rate of thirty years in a minute. It is one of our owl's dreams, you know, such as we gain our wisdom from in the sighing of the night."
Athene did not speak, but she held Wart in the hollow of her kind hand, and he knew that he was to look in front of him.
He saw the world with his own eyes now, no longer using the strange spectrum which he had experienced since he came out with Archimedes, and no doubt this was done in order to make things easier for him. They needed to be made easier, for it was now his business to watch a world in which a year passed in two seconds. It was a world of trees.
"We dream of this," explained Archimedes, " when we perch on a tree in the winds of winter, or sleep in its hollow in the rains of spring."
Sometimes nowadays you can see a cinema film of a flower, for instance, in which one exposure has been taken every hour. In it you see the petals expand and throb open or shut for day or night, until the whole story is over and the seeds have been thrown out upon the wind. There was a woodland now in front of the Wart, and in it an oak sapling which grew, flourished and shed its leaves into nakedness, all in the time during which you could slowly count to three. A whole year had passed in that time, with all its human joys and sorrows.
"This," said Athene, or at any rate it is what she seemed to be saying, in the most glorious of voices, "is called the Dream of the Trees."
People don't think of trees as alive. We never see them moving unless the wind disturbs them, and then it is not their movement but the wind's. The Wart saw now that trees are living, and do move. He saw all that forest, like sea weed on the ocean's floor, how the branches rose and groped about and waved, how they panted forth their leaves like breathing (and indeed they were breathing) and, what is still more extraordinary, how they talked.
If you should be at a cinema when the talking apparatus breaks down, you may have the experience of hearing it start again too slowly. Then you will hear the words which would be real words at a proper speed now droning out unintelligibly in long roars and sighs, which give no meaning to the human brain. The same thing happens with a gramophone whose disc is not revolving fast.
So it is with humans. We cannot hear the trees talking, except as a vague noise of roaring and hushing which we attribute to the wind in the leaves, because they talk too slowly for us. These noises are really the syllables and vowels of the trees.
"You may speak for yourselves," said Athene.

- T.H. White, The Sword In The Stone
alice lost in labyrinth

The best thing ... is to learn.

"The best thing for disturbances of the spirit," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in the anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then---to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn---pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theo-criticism and geography and history and economics, why, you can start to make a cart wheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough."

- T.H. White, The Sword In The Stone