How to move a tree

Why attempting the impossible is always the right thing to do.

| April 2008 issue
Early one morning in a park, I came across a man who, for some reason, had harnessed himself to a tree. For a moment, it looked as if he was trying to move the tree to another place, maybe drag it home for his front yard. I had to laugh at the crazy thought. That tree wasn’t going to budge. The man was obviously engaged in some kind of exercise. Most likely, he brought his harness out every morning to do the same practise.
I once read in a book of Eastern philosophy that if you had a fish in a pond and you wanted it to get big and strong, you put a stone in the middle of the pond. The fish would swim around and around the stone trying to get to the other side. No matter what side of the stone the fish was on, the other side always beckoned. And so it kept swimming. In time, the fish would be much bigger and stronger than a fish in a pond without a stone in the middle.
It seems crazy to attempt the impossible, yet it brings about a strength that can’t be gotten otherwise. This man will never move the tree, but he’ll become very strong. I may or may not become the writer I set out to be in my youth, but the effort has really changed my life and I feel it’s made me a better person. The fish, no matter what side of the stone it gets to, never reaches the “other” side. Trying, though, eventually makes it a superior fish.
A man, a tree, a fish, a stone; a blank page, a writer—no matter how hard we try, there is that which we can never quite reach. But then one day we find that somehow it has reached us—and recognize, with surprise and astonishment, the other side.
William R. Stimson is the founder and former editor of the Dream Network Journal and now lives in Taiwan. This article originally appeared in Kyoto Journal.

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