Once upon a time there was a leaf on a tree.
One fine day, the leaf became conscious and started to ask questions about itself and the meaning of life. It enjoyed the experience of being alive.
But here’s something you probably didn’t know about leaves – they can only see the colour green. So the leaf couldn’t see the branch it was attached to, or the main trunk of the tree. It thought it was just floating in the air, independent and free.
After a while, the novelty of being a leaf wore off and the leaf, who was on a lower branch of the tree, looked up and saw there were leaves that were higher up in the air, where they got more sunlight and had a better view of the world.
“I want to be where those leaves are”, the leaf thought to itself. It spoke to some other young leaves who told it that if it just wanted it badly enough, and was prepared to work for it, a leaf could move anywhere it wanted to. After all, those leaves somehow got up there, so why not us? We are just as deserving.
So the young leaf decided to work hard to improve its circumstances. It would focus all of its energy on moving higher up in the air. Now, sometimes, when it focused hard, the leaf could feel itself moving and thought it was succeeding. It didn’t understand that the movement was the result of the wind blowing. But other times when it focused hard, the wind didn’t blow, and the leaf was frustrated with its lack of progress. After a while, the leaf got depressed.
“Life’s not fair,” it would think. “I suck at being a leaf. I’m a bad, stupid, unworthy leaf. I don’t believe in myself enough. Nobody will ever love me.”
One day, it got talking to another, older, wiser leaf.
“You seem happy,” said the young leaf to the wise, old leaf. “What is your secret?”
“The secret, young leaf, is to know that you are connected to all other leaves by a tree,” said the wise leaf. “In fact, you ARE the tree.”
“What is this tree you speak of?” Asked the young leaf.
“It’s the invisible framework that connects us all and gives us life” said the wise leaf.
“But how do I get to be one of those higher leaves?” asked the young leaf.
“You are ALL of the leaves,” replied the wise leaf. “You are the entire tree. You are just one node of consciousness in the entire tree of life.”
“I understand that you are probably right in theory,” said the young leaf, “but how does that help me? How can I be happy?”
“Accept that you are the tree and enjoy the experience of also being a leaf,” said the wise leaf. “It won’t last forever.”
“But I can think fro myself,” said the young leaf. “Surely that means I am free to do whatever I choose.”
“Thinking and choosing are just chemical events generated by the tree,” said the wise leaf. “Like photosynthesis. Do you think you are free to photosynthesize?”
“No, but I’m not aware of the photosynthesis,” said the young leaf. “It just happens.”
“Exactly,” said the wise leaf. “You are aware of your thinking, so you think you are in control of it. But it’s really the same process as the photosynthesis. Both are just chemical events happening to the tree. Accept you are the tree, and everything will become clear and life will be simple, free from stress and anxiety.”
But the young leaf couldn’t see the tree, so it refused to accept what the wise leaf said. Leafs, like people, can only hear when they are ready to hear.
“If I accept what you’re saying, I would be miserable,” said the young leaf. “That would mean I’m stuck being a lower leaf. It seems like a defeatist, fatalist philosophy.”
“On the contrary,” replied the wise leaf. “Acceptance of the reality of things is the only path to permanent happiness and peace. Fighting against reality is a certain path to misery.”
But the young leaf was too caught up in its desire to be special, so instead of accepting the truth of the tree, it tried to escape its misery by drinking and binging Netflix, took up obsessively going to the gym, read a lot of books about having a positive mental attitude, eventually becoming angry at itself and bitter at the world, until it finally withered away and died and was replaced with a new leaf.
The tree smiled as the new leaf became conscious and started to ask questions of the other leaves.