The next segment of Dr. Angelou’s poem names peoples who have been awakened and impassioned; at least some of them are prepared to hear the plain speech of the rock, river, and tree. The tree understands that all need the messages of Nature.
The groups mentioned here have experienced the throes of bigotry, prejudice, and destruction wrought by those who work in ego energy, those who plug their ears to the cry of the rock and fail to see the how they pollute the river with warlike attitudes; they refuse peace. How to respond to such a heavy history is the message of the tree; it leaves little to imagination or interpretation.
The twenty types of people, mentioned in the transition from the River to the Tree, seem to represent, perhaps, the most significant aspects of humanity. They arise from the litter of nationalism that hates and rejects those unlike themselves, nativistic thinkers who produce the detritus on the shores of the River as they inhumanely degrade and seek to destroy the Other.
The list of the Others includes the following categorizations of people: ethnicities, nationalities, religions, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, and careers — a fairly broad spectrum of humanity. The agreement of this swath of humanity that harmonizes with the singing river and hears the plain, unvarnished truth of the speaking tree communicates to everyone, the hater and the hated, the oppressor and the oppressed, for deep down all have a Heart to know the truth of Spirit. They have “a true yearning to respond to / The singing river and the wise rock” because they need the comfort and the wisdom. They are the ones who may convey the messages of Nature to the rest of us. They are presented as the examples.
Not all, however, will listen to their own Heart; not all even know where to begin. Some purposefully shut out not only the voices of Nature and the soul of this world and universe, but also they reject the testimony of their own Heart and defer to Ego, that part of us which isolates from others and works to promote and preserve self at all costs in a multitude of ways, ways that sometimes include hate and destruction.
As the Tree develops its truth, we may come to see that we do not require ego for security, fulfillment, and peace. We are One, a unity; to heart, no Other exists.
In this last personification that Dr. Angelou employs, twenty different groups of people hear the “speaking of the tree,” people who experienced prejudice, bigotry, racism, and other forms of ostracism, oppression, and marginalization. These people have experienced varying degrees of enslavement around this globe. Mindless, needless, ego-fueled fears, jealousies, misunderstandings, and disrespect prompt hate-filled legislation and prejudiced practices. The gradual erosion of dignity leaves the oppressed with the worst enslavement of all: self-abnegation, a feeling and acceptance of inferiority and hopelessness and worthlessness. Nature says abdication of our true nature is unnatural.
The transition into the voice of the tree flows smoothly. Our heart-energy resonates with Spirit that is infused in the voices of Nature.
The tree invites each of us to “plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.” Before the tree gives the reason, however, a significant and long parenthesis is added: “Each of you, descendant of some passed on / Traveller, has been paid for.” The implication here takes the form of a debt that required settlement, a debt incurred by ego, which we allowed. When we ignore Heart, we defy the laws of Nature and lose a vital connection to the Universe. Nature gives examples of Spirit in all things, the same Spirit that is heart in each of us. We hold within us the higher frequencies of life, those that tend to peace, love, creativity, innovation, purpose, and happiness, and Nature knows this and seeks to evoke these from us.
The tree continues as she calls on Indigenous People who named all the trees but were driven from their lands by ego-controllers, by the same sort who claim that the almighty quest for wealth and power trumps everything. The tree calls on the People: “You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, / You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, / Then forced on bloody feet…” We should be aware: if we force anyone, any group away from their spiritual and natural heritage, we act in ego. However, if we have in the past, we may remember and toggle to heart-energy, for all of us have been paid for: we have heart.
Who abused the Indigenous People, and why did they do it? A number of ethnicities are listed, but the why is the most significant fact. The tribes who were forced to leave opened the way for those “Desperate for gain, starving for gold.” Ego doesn’t hesitate to destroy, abuse, or even kill for those things that have nothing to do with the deepest yearnings of us all, those qualities that we ultimately desire. Sometimes, egotists maintain they do what they do for peace, love, and the common good. They don’t; they are simply greedy. They lie not only to themselves but also anyone else who gives them credence.
Avarice produces a debt, so the tree says these named groups arrived “on a nightmare / Praying for a dream.” To some of these groups, money and gain became the dream, and enslaving and oppressing others proved to be useful tools; however, the ends never justify the means. No one gets to achieve their dreams — no matter how horrible their previous situation was — by oppressing, destroying, or killing others or Nature herself.
At times, things that seem positive, like seeking wealth and being highly motivated to pray for some dream, can become a nightmare if the motive force is ego. Exploring, discovering, and knowing who we are at heart-level will shape the dreams and prevent them from becoming nightmares.
The offer to root ourselves by Heart next to the tree stands. Will we receive that offer? (Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash)The tree offers the invitation: “root yourselves beside me. I am the tree planted by the river, which will not be moved.” Heart-energies of highest frequencies don’t change and don’t give out when times are tough. Nature reflects that.
Then, the three elements of Nature harmonize in their testimony to those seeking to know Self: “I, the rock, I the river, I the tree, I am yours…” Ego will sow discord, and sometimes we need discord to shake things up. When we recognize discord within and need to discover Self, we will not find false witness in Nature. We must listen to her.
In fact, they say, once again, “your passages have been paid.” Passages, journeys from our history painted mostly by ego, have cost us. Heart in us waits to be discovered, invited, and engaged to be our operating system, one that will set beauty, love, light, peace, creativity, and progress on a solid footing, nurtured and flowing with the right energy. Heart in us is the payment.
We have means to access Heart. We need not be bogged down: “Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need for this bright morning dawning…” Discovering self and creating purpose to pursue those things yielding happiness, fullness, and significance give us hope.
This offer is personal — “for you.” Heart allows us to explore our own past and view and evaluate it in truth: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” Don’t deny. Accept, and then release it. Allow heart to lead onward and upward.
When we discover heart, we can dream good dreams, dreams that become purpose and vision and health, dreams that become personal and then, in turn, benefit, bless, and work together for all.
Dr. Angelou appeals to that heart desire of dreaming good things, positive, high-frequency energies of freedom to live with those natural, inherent rights of mutually respectful, mutually beneficial principles: “Give birth again to the dream. Women, children, men, take it into the palms of your hands, mold it into the shape of your most private need. Sculpt it into the image of your most public self.” All have dreams. None need ascribe to anyone else’s dream or truth. Heart-generated and -energized dreams give new clay to give new forms, new shapes, new dimensions to this world. When we can live, work, and respect one another in the spirit of the common good, we “sculpt it,” sculpt life, sculpt a new history using new material.
Living true to Self is the birth of the new dream and is the new clay. Discovering Self is not selfish. Spiritual awakening is the basis of governance that all may take advantage of expansive rights and freedom if any choose to. If none do, the government should still be based on heart-energies and heart-principles.
The past pall of ego over our history dissipates in the light of heart: “Do not be wedded forever to fear, yoked eternally to brutishness.” The propensity to accept war and destruction as natural is a lie. It does NOT have to be that way, and scheming, duplicitous political and governmental dealings for personal gain, even national, at the cost of others’ freedoms and rights are brutishness — against Nature.
How do we break free from those things which seem inevitable in an ego mindset? “The horizon leans forward, / Offering you space to place new steps of change.” Change for peace, equality, and a new history. Change that redefines ego-led lives with heart-energy. Redefines history. Redefines values. Redefines relationships.
Reform won’t do it. Reform looks at the past and tries to patch up or improve what is often an inherently faulty system based on ego. New horizons stretch before us.
Do we buy these ideas? Believe them? Do we fear them? Is it all too drastic? Listen: “You may have the courage to look up and out upon me, the rock, the river, the tree, your country.” Anyone can: “No less to Midas than the mendicant.” Equality enjoyed in terms of opportunity and freedom to choose regardless of socioeconomic status or regardless of history: “No less to you now than the mastodon then.” Throughout history, Spirit and Spirit’s Nature has offered the testimony of freedom, equality, and hope for harmony — even in the face of challenges that arise from the more brutal side of nature. Any principles, legislation, or persons who limit those qualities pervert the history we create.
We cannot hide from the past, but we can learn from it by listening to Heart. Our future could be vastly different — fulfilling, significant, purposeful, connected! What do you see in future sunrises? (Photo by Puria Berenji on Unsplash)How does it start, though? How could a new energy be introduced that changes the course of history? The rock, the river, and the tree say, “…look up and out and into your sister’s eyes, into your brother’s face, your country.” Recognize that a nation, other nations, governments, institutions, corporations, or any aggregate of people are made up of individuals to be treated and related to as such. Valued in fellowship. Valued in compassion. Valued in communication. Valued in a shared future of hope.
Therefore, the change, the redefinitions begin with you, with me, individuals. Is this too complicated? No, it’s choosing heart over ego to operate our lives. And that does not take much, really. Look into one another’s faces, knowing who we are, and “say simply, very simply, with hope, ‘Good morning.’”
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!