African Tales Of a Green Planet is a fictional work set in the Niger Delta area of West Africa roughly between 1730-1850, among the Igbo speaking peoples of the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta area of Nigeria is an area blessed in economic terms and has played a pivotal role in the economic history of Africa as a whole. It is an area, which in the first 400 years of trade with Europe produced, first gold, then slaves during the period of the slave trade, and palm oil after the prohibition of the slave trade, and finally crude oil in modern times.
This tale explores one man's attempt (Nwosisi) to preserve the African way of life in the Sacred Forest away from all foreign intrusion. He falls deeply in love with a very beautiful girl (Ugonma) and that changes not only the course of his life but that of his environs as well, a metaphor for Africa. This tale is recounted by an old Iroko tree five hundreds of years old. In true oral tradition it captures a story of love, trade and politics, power struggles, foreign intruders, mysticism, and the daunting task of one man's attempt to preserve 'a way of life' in danger of extinction. This attempt seemed doomed from the onset; just as the notion of preserving a green planet is doomed in the context of so-called modern civilization.
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AFRICAN TALES OF A GREEN PLANET
By EMEKA DIKE
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Emeka Dike
All rights reserved.
There are many secrets in this life. Even though man is purported to be the superior being, there is so much he does not know. We as trees are regarded as silent except when the wind rustles through our leaves. Man does not consider us to be alive by any stretch of the imagination although biologically we are alive; but then we are alive in other ways that man can never even imagine. As I stand here as I have stood for the past five hundred years, I look around me and so much has changed. Man has evolved a complex society, which nevertheless remains myopic in outlook when it comes to God's other creations, man sees life only from his own viewpoint, without considering the point of view of other creatures, which share this vast planet with him. We, too, like man have memories some pleasant and some not so pleasant we too recall instances times and fables but unlike man we have a very long life span which is determined not by blood that flows through our veins or the life span of organs that tire and fatigue with age and wear and tear, but by the natural elements like wind, fire, and rain; and finally, but by no means the least, by the caprices of man. These are the factors that determine whether we live or die, or whether we witness another episode in the cycle of life seen from the point of being closer to the heavens than man who by virtue of his stature is physically closer to Hades than to heaven.
Central to the Holy Garden of Eden was our Elder Tree, the father of all trees on earth created by God but not in his own image. Right from the beginning, the Elder Tree was there side-by-side or even before Adam. Created by the same God and central to the Garden of Eden.
Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. (Gen. 2: 8-9).
It is pertinent to note at this point that the Elder Tree had superior knowledge of life compared to man. However, God gave these instructions:
The Lord God gave man this order: "You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die." (Gen. 2:15-17).
These instructions were given to man before the creation of woman just to tell you how important us trees were to God from the beginning of time. It is also pertinent to point out that the Elder Tree was in existence before animals were created and before God asked man to name them!
The Elder Tree was also in existence before the creation of woman as I have already pointed out. The same woman upon her creation realized the following:
The woman saw that the tree was good for food pleasing to the eyes and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Gen. 3:6)
Need I say more? In fact, I have said too much already. We trees know that God took us into confidence from the beginning giving the Elder Tree in the middle of the garden superior knowledge over man and situating the Elder Tree at the centre of the garden. What better honour could there be? To be at the centre of all that God had created? Do you still doubt the wisdom of God who chose to put the tree at the centre of his creation while Adam had to go to the tree for knowledge in order to have knowledge of good and evil despite God's instruction not to do so? If God wanted man to know what the tree knew, and (yet did not fall from grace in the eyes of God), he would have given that same knowledge to Adam from the very beginning. We trees never fell from grace like man and as a result, we do not know death the way man does; thus we live for hundreds of years under the blue sky and God's watchful eyes.
Silence should not be mistaken for lack of intelligence or knowledge. Silence should not be seen as a sign of weakness or a sign of unwillingness to belong, to express, or to participate in the affairs of the world. Silence often embodies quiet dignity and a deep knowledge of God, as exemplified by the Elder Tree—the Tree of Knowledge. What is knowledge? Simply put knowledge is to have a microscopic glance into the mind of God. Why then did God decide to entrust such knowledge to a tree and not to Adam? What is a tree? A tree is the embodiment of God's wisdom in its untainted and natural form silent to the unaware spirit, yet loud and clear to the ears of those who can discern the true spirit and presence of God.
Five hundred years is but a twinkle of an eye for an old tree like me. What do I see or know ...? From my vantage point? It is not very difficult in the light of the importance God placed on trees from the point of view of creation; to see why men both past and present worship trees not only in our own Africa but also all over the world. Could it be that we trees are the "gods" that tree worshipers could see? Who would blame them if one reads the story of creation in the Holy Bible with untainted eyes, eyes of a young child that has not yet learnt how to tell a lie. Eyes that have no deceit in them, eyes that know no corruption, nor have experience of the sins of the flesh. All unholy truths are designed to strip you bear of God's wisdom and grace and prevent God's spirit in truth from permeating even the outer perimeter of your soul. How then did it come to pass that generally in the eyes of man so little is thought of the tree? Why is it that we trees are not the main focus of man even though God thought so highly of us and honoured us at the very point of creation? Is it man's arrogance or ignorance that is at play? Should I in fact as a tree pity man? When I look around, I see more trees than I see people on the planet, yet man does not reckon with us as beings of equal or superior status and intellect, instead man rapes us, violates our essence to make room for his insatiable desire to take up all the space on the planet by himself (meanwhile by so doing destroying the planet) while supposedly obeying God's call to, go forth and multiply. We are turned into furniture, houses, tools, and all inanimate objects without a thought to our feelings or desires as beings with an equal right to occupy the planet, or even respected for our provision of oxygen all for the existence of man! Where did we trees go wrong after being so close to God to being discarded by man as unimportant—slaves to be dealt with in any manner that suits man. Oh, if only man really knew what a tree was, he would behave differently toward us. If man knew what we have seen and heard over the centuries, he would treat us differently and with more reverence, tolerance, sensitivity, and hope. Hope of a better future, hope that there is much more to life than sex and the idolization of money.
That man's primal drive is not sexual, but much more than that, if only he is able to take better notice of his surroundings by listening to voices that cannot be heard but surround him. Sigmund Freud reduced man to his primal basic instincts while leaving no room for God or spirituality. Man having the gift of free will from God chose his primeval desire, which can only lead to death and destruction rather than spirituality, freedom, and everlasting life. But then, what does a tree like me know?
Once in a while, Man acknowledges that there are some things he does not know. He will most often attribute it to a failure of science. What is science except the logic of Man rather than that of God? God is the creator, Man is the created so how does the created expect to explain the mind of the creator? Is that not the supreme arrogance of Man? Or shall we say the supreme stupidity of Man and the folly of Science? How can you know more than the entity that created you? How do you wish to interpret his actions and his ways when you clearly do not understand or believe in them? What is wrong with Man? What is wrong? Is it that Man finds it hard to admit he is not God? Why does Man want to be God? What makes Man play God? (Science is Man's attempt to play God and as we have seen science still has a long way to go). Why not be content that, there are some things, best left to the discretion of the Creator. Man, are you created to think or to carry out orders in the form of the twelve commandments given to Moses? Why do you violate and question these commandments? It is because God gave you free will. Is free will bad? By definition since it came from God, it must be good.
The truth of the matter and the answer to the above is that Science does not believe in the existence of God. So one needs to be careful when one says, "We are scientists or we have an affinity to science or sympathy for it or we believe in it." We should see it for what it is Man's imperfect attempt to explain the existence of the world. But then again, what do I know, I'm just a lowly tree.
Don't get me wrong, you might think that as a mere tree, I am jealous of Man or that I wish to be Man so I could get the accolade accorded Man as the "superior" being on the planet. Believe you, me, nothing could be further from the truth. I love being a tree I have been a tree for five hundred and twenty-four years, sixth months, twenty days, and six hours to be precise. I have never had a dull moment in all those years despite the fact that I have never left my spot. Trees don't expect to leave their spot. In fact, we regard our spot the same way man sees his destiny. It is our destiny to grow in a particular spot on the planet and watch life unfold around us from our vantage point. So we take in everything in our environment from when the sun rises to when it sets. We observe everything that happens within a one-mile radius, we hear conversations witness actions of those who do not know us or know that they are being watched. We are the spiritual observers of the universe and have been from the beginning of time. We communicate amongst ourselves through what you humans would call telepathy. We have relations, cousins, brothers, and sister trees born from the same seed spread by bats in the night (flying foxes). We are a family a race a nation of spiritual observers on earth. We are also sometimes known as the custodians of truth.
We like humans, have good trees and evil trees; after all, we have always possessed the knowledge of good and evil even before Man. We, therefore, like Man, have the free will to choose between good and evil. Many trees choose evil in order to exploit the knowledge God has given them, for evil rather than for good. These are the trees that encourage tree worship, after all, no good tree can ask Man to worship it rather than God, who created it in the first place. My father told me about Elder Tree. He told me that of course he was a good tree because everything God made was good. Elder Tree was the first tree created by God and was placed by God in the centre of the Garden of Eden. Legend has it that he tried to look into the eyes of God when Adam and Eve fell from grace, by eating its forbidden fruit, in order to apologize to God for being taken unawares by the serpent. However, before he could gaze upon God, a voice belonging to God told him to hold his gaze and words and not to ever discuss the matter again for it was not in his place to do so. The Elder Tree was simply informed that he had been an instrument in the hands of fate and had never had a say in the matter, nor did God accuse it of any wrongdoing. So legend has it that Elder Tree from then on never mentioned the episode of Adam and Eve in the Garden ever again and would never speak of it or hear of it spoken of.
I have not told you much about myself. I am called an Iroko tree in Yoruba or an Orji tree in Igbo or in Latin Chlorophora excelsa to be precise. My specie is native to West Africa but sometimes we are referred to as "Nigerian teak," although we are no way related to the teak family, besides I am not sure whether that is supposed to be a compliment or not. But you know, white men, as far as they are concerned, we are all alike. Man describes us as "tough dense and very durable." I think more of myself as "sensitive spiritual and highly perceptive." I come from an ancestry of great trees not only in the physical sense, as the Iroko tree is very tall, huge, and majestic when fully grown but also in terms of the spiritual. But I am not a disappointment to my ancestors as I am tall as well as majestic in appearance.
As trees, our place in history is not in doubt. We have apart from our role in the Garden of Eden at the time of creation, been a great source of knowledge to men from all parts of the world. In Yoruba popular mythology before the advent of Christianity, it is believed that an Iroko tree taught Orunmila Odu divination. It is also believed that trees taught the Druids in early Britain an alphabet that was essentially also a system of divination. Buddha was also taught enlightenment by sitting under the Bodhi tree.
So you see, we trees have been instruments of enlightenment in the spiritual sense for some time. We were there at the critical point of creation, and whenever God wants to teach Man what the essence of life is in whatever culture language or colour, we are there to lend a helping hand as best we can. Because we live so long as a rule, baring any natural disasters or foolishness on the part of Man, and because wisdom dwells in us. You cannot witness so much of life and not have wisdom. Life teaches you about life whether you like it or not. So the longer you live, the more experiences you pick up, and the wiser you become. So what have I learnt in five hundred years? Well, first of all, take nothing for granted. Secondly, never judge a book by its cover.
"It is from a small seed that the giant iroko tree has its beginning."CHAPTER 2
CUSTODIANS OF THE PAST
The wind blows my whole body fighting the cobwebs blowing out the dust from my leaves, spring cleaning of sorts you might say. The violent wind first blows with such ferocity only to be followed almost immediately by a sheet of dark dense tropical rain pellets falling all over my branches and leaves cleansing me of the dead debris of life that had clung stubbornly to my body. It is indeed a sacred body, which has endured for many years and many seasons a body that has taken all that the weather could throw at it in five hundred years, and still hold its ground. Not as young as I once was then, waving and dancing in the wind, but now older and sturdier, more stout, strong on my feet, better at withstanding the wind and rain. A body that bears the battle scars of years gone by a body that has given shade to the traveler, succor to the sick, and a meeting point for men to discuss their affairs, sometimes in hush tones and at other times in loud voices, punctuated with anger excitement and sometimes sheer rage. This is a body regarded by many as pure, and next to God, worthy of worship. A body that has become a landmark in the area. "Let us meet under the Iroko tree when the sun rises to the east."
Excerpted from AFRICAN TALES OF A GREEN PLANET by EMEKA DIKE. Copyright © 2014 Emeka Dike. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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