Tree of knowledge

The Tree of knowledge
(especially destined for our young readers)

What is it to feel? 

I do not know if you noticed this morning, rather early, the waning moon and the morning star very close together. And did you see the light of that moon in your room, and on the river, if you were near the river? There were hardly any ripples on the water, there was hardly any breeze; the river was very, very still. It was really quite extraordinarily beautiful: the distant dark shore; the moon almost silver-bright, polished; Venus, the morning star, still bright; and the completely quiet water.Most of us have very little feeling about anything. Do you know what it is to feel, to care, to look? To watch the river, to look at the moon for a long time, to feel the movement of the trees, to see a bird — how it flies, how delicate its wings are and, yet, how extraordinarily strong they must be to support it through a storm demands a great deal of feeling.

Do you know what it is to feel? You feel not merely with your hands. When you touch something, you feel. When you touch a lizard, it gives you a rather unpleasant feeling. If you touch a toad, a frog, you will find that it is cold, slimy and, if you take hold of it in your hands and look at it, it will give you an extraordinarily unpleasant feeling. And if you have ever taken, in your hand, a bird that has been wounded and that just wants to escape, you would have felt its heart beating; everything in it would have been alive. To feel the movement of a tree, to hear the breeze in the morning among the leaves, to feel for those poor women going from the village to the town, day after day, in their dirty clothes — unwashed, never having a hot bath, never having clean clothes, never having a full meal, never being able to stop working — makes one very sensitive.

To hear, not the technique, not the repetition over and over again of a particular note, but a song sung really well by someone with a full heart, and who does not care whether anyone is listening or not; to listen to the call of a bird of a morning; and to listen to the fisherman across the river, calling, makes one very, very sensitive—it makes one terribly alive. And that is why it is very important for you to have feeling, now — feeling about the way you dress, the way you sit, the way you talk, how you play games, how you talk to your cook, to your servant, how people, your teachers, for example, treat you, how they talk to you. All that matters now, not tomorrow, not five years later — then it will be too late.

And if you do not feel everything now, when you are young, alive — if you do not see the lizard go across the roof, across the wall, and watch it moving, catching a fly; if you do not notice the people about you, the poor people, your teachers, your friends, the way the cook cooks — then, when you grow up, you will notice nothing; you will not feel anything. As all your emotions would have been destroyed, you will have no strong feelings about anything — about your brother, your family, your children, about what happens to the people around you — and you will not notice the birds, the river, the trees, and the squalor.

As I was coming here to talk, I wondered why we, grown-ups as well as children, do not feel, do not care, for anything. Why? Are you following what I am talking about? Why do we not feel, strongly, for something? Not about nationalism, not about ideas, flags (those come much later, or not at all) but about little things. Have you walked across that bridge on the river Varuna? How rickety it is, how full of holes; it is put together with pieces of string! And if a big man, a big ‘saint’, or a well-known politician comes along, they — the authorities — will put up a new bridge tomorrow; they will all work furiously, level that steep slope, put a lot of flowers around it, and make the bridge very nice. But you and I, and those villagers walk day after day on that bridge, and nobody cares. And I have wondered about the people who do not care. I have wondered what happens to their children — what kind of human beings their children will be when they grow up, what kind of thoughts they will have, what kind of feelings, affections, sorrows, and miseries they will have.

I have also wondered what they will be when they are married and when they have children of their own. You see, if you do not care now, if you do not have tremendous feelings now, while you are at school — when you are playing, laughing, amusing yourself — then, naturally, when you grow up, you will not have any feelings at all; life will be much too difficult then…

Tremendous changes are taking place in the world… – and you know nothing about these things that really changes. You may read little bits here and there — how they are discovering new ways of communicating, new ways of looking at things, and how they are doing the most extraordinary things, like going to the moon. There are a whole group of people, led by a Frenchman, who have lived at the bottom of the sea, in a hut, for a month. Do you know what that means — to live under the sea? There are tremendous revolutions going on; people are questioning everything — gods, ceremonies, the family. Everything is being questioned anew; everything is being torn apart.

In America, and maybe in Russia, boys of six and seven are being taught higher mathematics and science, because there is so much to learn. You have to learn more every year in order to keep up with the new changes, the new techniques, and information. I was talking to a friend in Europe — a medical doctor. He has a first-class reputation. But he has to work much harder than any of you, because he has to keep up with the new techniques of surgery, new medicines, and so on. He has no time; he is worn-out, exhausted. And when man is living at this speed, with this strain, this anxiety, and this tremendous stress, all feelings — the feeling of affection, the feeling for the beauty of a tree, the feeling for somebody who has very little –disappear, and he merely functions in a narrow groove. So it matters very much that from now on you become very sensitive. Have strong feelings; do not be frightened of them. Love somebody with all your being — with your heart, with your mind, with everything. Love a bird. Love a tree that you have planted; look after it. Keep your room in a spotless condition. Then you will begin to care, to care what you are.

What is it to care? Do you know what it means to care? You care when you look after a pet animal, when you keep your clothes in order, when you wash and keep yourself clean. If you plant a tree in the garden, it requires watching over; it requires care. You may have to add manure to the soil in which it is growing;  it must be watered regularly when there is no rain. If you have a dog, you must brush it, give it the right kind of food, take it out for walks, and see that it has no disease. To do all these things — to have a feeling for people, for animals, for plants, for things — is to care. Caring is really a part of that profound thing called love. It begins with the care of little things…


Source: J. Krishnamurti: ‘What is it to care?’ 

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