Giving up is unacceptable; Quitting is never an option.

A cedar tree growing out of a rock cut, near Burnstown, Ontario.

There are the things I know in my heart, or in my soul, or in my mind, and they’re not necessarily the same things; I feel, I know, I reason…each kind of knowing is valid, each is a different pathway to what is hopefully the same truth, the same reality as perceived from different perspectives. The Universe is far too large to even begin to understand in its entirety, and yet there are aspects that we can know.

I feel in my heart that I’m connected to every living thing in this world. I know in my soul that this is how it is. Because I’m curious about an awful lot of things, I’ve learned that this is also literally true: Sometime around three and a half billion years ago, a particular cell mutated into existence (make of that what you will), known by the acronym Luca…the last universal common ancestor. Every life form that exists on this Earth, or has ever existed, traces back to Luca. Imagine that: Every fish, animal, bacterium, plant, tree, every weird creature everywhere has evolved from one cell that mutated into something, with its three hundred and fifty five genes that are common to all life.

We are connected to everything that lives.

I think about trees a lot, because they’re a small enough detail of this Universe to attempt to understand. Note, attempt: There is far more than initially meets the eye. Whereas I used to think of the seed of a tree as being a sort of blueprint, I now see it as far more complex, far more variable, and far more astonishing.

The chances of any one seed germinating are akin to the likelihood of any one of us existing…the odds against both are astronomical. There are conditions that must be met to permit viability. At a basic level, tree seeds need what embryos need; nourishment, water, and elements of our atmosphere. (We and trees are related, after all.)

I think of the seed as functioning more than anything as a think tank. There are imperatives, and tasks that must be dealt with in order to survive, let alone thrive. Roots have to seek out water and certain minerals. A trunk must be started, in order to develop leaves to harvest carbon and solar energy. The need for bark must be considered, as well as all of the conduits in a tree. This is all challenging enough, and gets harder when the seed is in less than ideal conditions…which it almost invariably is. The adaptability of a tree is amazing; there is no accident to branches growing just there, or roots going where they go. The think tank assesses everything, constantly, and makes the best possible decisions to allow for growth, whatever the conditions might be. There are endless possibilities within a climate, and all of them are factors in precisely what a tree does and how it grows.

*Okay, enough of that for now. I could carry on for hours in this vein.*

As hostile as growing conditions might be, it’s hard to imagine anything being more unlikely for the growth of a tree, as a seed landing in a tiny crack, in a vertical rock cut on a highway. And yet, as unlikely as it might be, a tree seed will find a way, if a way exists, to grow and flourish.

At last, I come to my point. A tree never complains, or gives up. It insists on trying to live, regardless of the monumental difficulties that the Universe has put before it. It never thinks of its circumstances as being unfair or unjust or unlucky…whatever it contends with, is simply what is, and the choice is really no choice at all. Deal with it. Is there a drop of water in the crack in that rock? Send out a rootlet. Start a trunk. Plan for leaves. Look for what you need, not only for survival, but for “surthrival”, to grow into the fullness of your magnificence. Lisa McDonald of Living Fearlessly coined the inspiring term, “surthrival”, and also, as one of her mantras (and now one of mine), has this to say about giving up: “Quitting is never an option.” Never, ever. Quitting is anathema, unacceptable, a waste of life. and an insult to your very existence.

Trees are solution-focused, really. There is an outcome which has already been determined, and a tree will simply not quit in achieving that result. It persists. It doesn’t see obstacles, only opportunities.

We are cousins, we and the trees, as we are to everything else that has life. It’s interesting, that alone among all living creatures, humans will simply give up when life is hard. I prefer to emulate the persistence of trees. and take the concept of giving up out of my life’s equation entirely. Quitting is never an option.

Quitting. Is. Never. An. Option.