How to Move a Tree



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How to Move a Tree

by William R. Stimson
(from his series of “snapshot notes” in KJ 65)


Early one morning in a park in Taiwan I came across a man who had stopped off on his way home from the market to harness himself to a tree. For a moment it looked as if he were 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 practice. 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 he was on, the other side always beckoned. And so he kept swimming. In time, he 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, and yet it brings about a strength that can’t be gotten otherwise. This man will never move the tree; but he will 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 he gets to, never reaches the “other” side. He’s always on the side he’s on. The other side, though, by being there, eventually makes of him 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.


DR. WILLIAM R. STIMSON is a founder and former editor of the Dream Network Journal and led dream groups in Manhattan. For years he conducted the free all-day meditation group every Saturday at the Ch’an Meditation Center in Elmhurst, Queens. He now lives in Taiwan where he writes and leads free dream groups at traditional Chinese tea houses in Taichung and Taipei.