THE NATURE OF THINGS
CONSIDER THE BANANA!
Sitting on the front steps this morning, drinking my coffee and watching the crows scuffling with each other, I noticed that the banana tree in the front yard was leaning towards the front wall quite a bit. To our south last night, a pretty specular display of nature’s fireworks - lightening - lasted for about an hour but never made it to Fort Kochi. “Should we put a stick under to support it?” I thought to myself. Two such trees were knocked over in a thunderstorm where we were living a couple of years ago and this one has at least forty bananas ripening on its stem with a large, royal vermillion colored flower at the tip. “Well,” I thought under further consideration, “it seems to be doing all right, why not just leave well enough alone.”
And then in a flash it occurred to me what a magical process I had been following over the past couple of months – the growing and ripening of a bunch of bananas. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But think about it. Here is this plant, with no brain, at least no brain resembling anything like the human brain, and yet with no help from mankind and just the assistance of the soil, sun, and rain it’s able to do such truly wondrous stuff! I pictured all these cells inside the green banana skins rushing around making copies of themselves, making the white colored flesh that we – and monkeys – so enjoy. How, I wondered, can they do that? The plant grows from a tiny seed into a seven foot tall structure, produces broad, flat, four feet long beautifully striated leaves, at some point “decides” to produce a specialized “leaf,” - a stem - from among the other leaves, that has a beautiful flower at the tip, behind which, starting from the tiniest of nondescript little bumps (more specialized cells, I guess), keeps on growing until there are some forty fully developed, long, plump – not quite ripe yet - bananas for us and the monkeys to enjoy. Pretty amazing! And all done with no help, no guidance, no instructions, no prayers nor imprecations from man. All right, maybe some folks do pray to banana plants– hey, I’m open to it! – but yours truly is not among them.
Naturally this feat of self-creation can all be explained by science with its genetics, proteins, enzymes, DNA, RNA and lord knows how many other chemicals and substances that interact with each other to permit this mysterious, wondrous display to unfold before our eyes. And yet, how is this possible? How on earth can a banana plant grow and change and produce so effortlessly, so unconsciously and with such precision and all it needs is a seed, soil, sun and rain? What a great thing! I guess those genetic programs are pretty damned powerful after all. (Are you listening Governor Pence?)
But such are the wonders of the natural world. Such complexity. Such beauty. Such remarkable, mysterious processes that make it all happen. Maybe we humans would be better off with not quite so much intelligence; not quite so much free will as we think we possess. So now I’m looking around the front yard at the mango tree, the cacti, the flowers, bushes and herbs and they are all doing the same thing as the banana tree - madly expanding, splitting, branching, producing – all quietly, serenely and perfectly. If I listen carefully, I can almost hear the symphony created by the billions of cells all busily producing and reproducing inside each leaf and flower and stem and fruit without a thought to guide them on their way to their destinations. How exhausting it must be. And how remarkable!
NB: Full Disclosure: Our banana tree as well as all the other trees and plants in the yard do receive a modicum of human assistance in the form of watering every day by the lovely woman who sweeps and cleans Good Karma Homestay each morning.