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WNIJ Perspectives
Perspectives are commentaries produced by and for WNIJ listeners, from a panel of regular contributors and guests. You're invited to comment on or respond to any Perspective on our Facebook page or through Twitter (@wnijnews), in keeping with our Discussion Policy. If you would like to submit your own Perspective for consideration, send us a script that will run about 90 seconds when read -- that's about 250 words -- and email it to NPR@niu.edu, with "Perspectives" in the subject line.

Perspective: Trees And Leaves

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Susan Stephens
/
WNIJ
Largest tree in Illinois, Bald Hill Prairie Preserve, Ogle County

Many years ago a man looked at the bare trees of late November and said to me, "The leaves won't come back for half a year." He was miserable about it. But now they have come back. The oaks and maples are no longer denuded. "Spring has sprung," as the poet said, "and the grass is ris. I wonder where the birdies is."

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But why do we have trees in the first place? A small thought experiment will tell us. Suppose that instead of us human beings, only amoebas could talk. They would have a rich vocabulary about worms and subatomic particles, but they'd be too small even to notice trees. Or suppose a creature as big as a galaxy had developed the gift of language. They would be so huge and so far up in the heavens that they wouldn't notice trees either. For the linguistic amoeba, trees would be too big. For the linguistic galaxies, trees would be too small. Instead, they'd discuss planets and asteroids.

We have trees because an animal of the right size learned how to talk. We are just the right size to notice trees, discuss them, enjoy their shade, climb them, get sap out of them, and cut them down.

If that unhappy man from a late November years ago had been an amoeba, he wouldn't have missed the leaves. But he might have been have been miserable over the movement of molecules.

This is Tom McBride. That's my Perspective.

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