11 june 01

(tree-worship, public execution, new morality)

19:43: Suzi Hozler - teacher and hitch-hiker

This is the seat in memory of her - in what they call East Meadow - the valley of small spreading oak trees that I discovered on my first heath walk (on a sunny morning in 1989) and felt like calling my own. It's sheltered from the distant traffic noise that pervades most of the heath and not many people find it. Today I missed this seat and had to back-track until I saw it behind the oak tree that it faces.

I pause to breathe in.

And now I look at a birch tree with four trunks, to my left, which has a low bough near the ground on which one can lie and see the sky through birch leaves and branches. I've just done so. Someone asked me a few days ago if the birch is an imported species but I feel sure it is native to Britain and that it had an important place in the tree-worship that may have preceded animal worship here, and perhaps everywhere.

But what of the rest of the world - in this valley from which most of it is excluded?

My thoughts go to the public execution today of a man in the USA. All day I've been trying to avoid hearing the frequent radio broadcasts from outside the execution chamber in which he was killed by lethal injections. Regardless of the crime, or political atrocity (the man referred to the bomb he set off as an act of war), I'm sure it is wrong to execute - and doubly wrong to broadcast it.

But what I most doubt is the recently growing claim that execution is justified because it makes the relatives of the victims feel better. It may well do - but it also reduces all of us to being members of an inhuman society. Do animals kill for vengeance, or so as to feel better, or to reduce their sense of loss? Or even for justice?

However, here among the trees, and increasingly attacked by mosquitos, I realise that the gentlemanly humanistic morality of the eighteenth century is ending and, before long, we must expect the cruder morality of release-from-class-rule to prevail for quite a time - until a new morality, fitting to people connected and empowered and threatened by new media, has been contrived, and perhaps fought for.

So, brushing and blowing these insects away, I pause to think again before moving...

...yes, the image that comes to mind is of a much cooler and less emotional society, or culture - perhaps resembling trees and vegetation more than human socieity as so far known. More like the Noh theatre? More like the rain, or the weather? There's a beauty in that - and a restraint and a power that's more sublime than inhibiting.... Or am I just reflecting my protestant upbringing, and my reaction against it? I guess we all are doing something like that.

Looking back, I would like to dedicate this little piece to Suzi Hozler - teacher and hitch-hiker. And to whoever wrote that description of her, and paid for the seat.