We are in Sequoia National Park, the land of the biggest trees on earth. I took the short hike to see the General Sherman tree, supposedly the biggest tree anywhere (not the tallest, not the oldest). As I walked down the fenced path, I noticed that they said that this tree was about 2,200 years old.
This fact made me think. All my life I have loved oak trees. I would look at a thick oak and and say, “This tree was here before my grandfather was born, and will be here after my grandchildren die.” A living thing, like an oak tree, that was several centuries old was such a thing of wonder.
But here I was, getting ready to see a tree that was here before Napolean, here before Francis of Assisi, here before Marcus Aurelius, here before Jesus of Nazareth.
I hated the walk. The tourists with their cameras and their complaining seemed an insufferable banality in the midst of this silent solemnity. General Sherman (what a name!) seemed to endure all the gawking and mindless chatter with a severe benevolence.
This morning before dawn I got up and walked along a trail by my campsite. No one was there. The Sequoias and the Ponderosa Pines and the Lodgepole pines were giants–they seemed three times as tall as the trees I was used to. They reached up to the sky in long columns, hundreds of feet high. We greeted the sunrise together.
Compared to these ancient trees, my life was a mere bubble of consciousness, and lasted as long as a fruit fly’s. Compared to the huge boulders along the trail, the life of these thousand year old trees were a mere speck, the life of a mere fruit fly. Compared to the sun, these mountains lasted for a mere moment. Compared to the universe, our sun was a small segment of time. Compared to that something or Someone, the universe was a mere speck of time, like the life of a fruit fly.
Leaders sometimes get caught up in such short-term evaluations. I hiked back to the camp, put my cowboy coffee pot over the fire, and thought about my two thousand year old friend.