From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shel Silverstein: A boy named M.E.

(Photo by Yzmo)
Once upon a time, a boy named M.E. and a tree named T. had a good thing going.  It was so good that T. sported a heart-shaped tattoo that read “M.E. & T.” for all the selfish grabby world of humans to see.  (Perhaps that last statement was unfair.  Maybe not all humans are selfish and grabby – maybe just those who call themselves M.E.) 

Had he fallen in love with a walrus, M.E. might have instead written, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”  However – everyone knows that poems are made by fools, and trees are made by God.  Therefore, M.E. was left with practically no choice but to carve his puny little initials into T.’s first line of defense.

Now T. was branded for life.  She took this “unto death do us part” thing quite seriously.  Whatever M.E. wanted, M.E. got.  He wanted apples, T. gave them.  He wanted branches, T. gave them.  He wanted a trunk, T. gave that too.  At the end of his life, M.E. just needed a quiet place to sit and rest.  Ye olde T. stump was only too glad to oblige.  The story ends with this pronouncement:  And the tree was happy.

As Shel Silverstein himself insisted, The Giving Tree is a simple story.  During a 1975 Publisher’s Weekly interview, he stated that “it presents just one idea.”  Here’s something to do during coffee hour when the conversation gets lagging.  Ask any five people (the more intellectual, the juicier) what that “one idea” really is.  Then let the games begin!

For a preview of coming attractions, here are some couldn’t-be-more-divergent-if-they-tried excerpts from The Giving Tree: A Symposium (yes, a “symposium”).  The first one claims:  The boy keeps coming back not simply because he gets what he wants from the tree, but because he loves the tree…  Another asks:  Is the story meant, then, to be an allegory of divine love?  If so, the author has got his Bible
mixed up with his Sears Roebuck wishbook.  For though Tree gives till it hurts, all her giving is in response to Boy’s material wants.  A third refers to the Christian Gospel and states:  what appears to be self-loss may be in reality our deepest fulfillment, since service, not detachment, makes us into creatures with whom our fellows may in some way abide.  Abiding with them, we may be happy…


Copyright September 25, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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