“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Philosophy is a tree.

a poem I wrote at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA on Oct 29, 2019

I don’t know
whether I am
a poet pretending to philosophize,
or a philosopher who happens to rhyme.

I am
hungry for wisdom’s teaching.

Feed me philosophy.

These thoughts do not
take place
inside my head.

I taste them in my mouth.
They boil in my belly.
My chest is resounding
with their potential.

The thinking now occurring
in me
is not mine.
It is the movement
of the world
through me.

Ideas are dew drops swaying
on flower petals
reflecting passing clouds.
They do not belong
to you or me.

Philosophy is a tree.
It is planted
in the earth.
Its trunk is ancient.
Its branches
are many.
Its leaves
are thousands more.
They whisper in summer wind,
catch fire in fall,
are buried in winter.
In spring they green unfurling.

This tree’s leaves can talk,
their whispers
an endless book.
Some leaves fold into flowers.
And some forbidden fruit.

Do not reach
for this tree’s wisdom
without permission.
Ideas cannot be possessed.
Ideas do the possessing.

Seed me, philosophy.

Philosophy is a galaxy.
It spirals
in heaven.
A lattice of light.
At its heart
a black hole hums
a billion year vibration.
Its arms have hands waving
in the folds of gravity
at the passage of time:
a goodbye to its exfoliating past,
a hello to its inescapable future.

Along these arms countless
worlds are curled around stars,
their kindling calling kin
out of the mud,
waking mind from its slumber,
teaching matter to sing
the songs of God.

A tree,
a galaxy,
a seed,
a star,
are so many names for God.

Do not strain your mind
in search of truth eternal.
Hear God now

And now

And now

in the pounding silence
between the beatings
of your heart.

God’s aim,
after all,
is art.

Do not look for God
beyond ocean’s horizon.
God’s body is the earth,
you are God’s body.
God’s face is the sky.
Pores in God’s face appear
as black holes
on the surface of the world.
The stars are the fountain-veins of God.

I am the love of wisdom.
We are the love that powers
the whirling of all these worlds.







3 responses to “Philosophy is a tree.”

  1. simonemah Avatar

    That is very beautiful, Matt !

    It comes like a synchronistic answer to my current thoughts on what philosophy is, and why do it.


    God’s aim is art, yes !!

    (And do you remember how Kant, in this third critique (e.g. paragr. 9 and 21) talks about the intimate relation between art (the beautiful) and cognition, when he claims that beauty “tunes” our cognitive powers for “Erkenntnis-überhaupt “, cognition as such, attunement as the (transcendental-musical-harmonical-Pythagorean) condition for knowledge …

    By the way, I profoundly enjoy your lectures on German Idealism. I am interested in them also under the professional aspect of teaching philosophy to beginners – you do a magnificent job !

    Greetings from Manitoba (the Great Spirit),


  2. Heather Malcolm Tarnas Avatar
    Heather Malcolm Tarnas

    Matt, Thank you for this! It is truly inspiring, beautiful and eloquent. You express what we are striving for in our classes at BACWTT. I would love to share this with them. You are definitely a poet- philosopher!

  3. Metaphysics in Process (reflections on Whitehead's system of philosophy) – Footnotes2Plato Avatar

    […] task. Flawed and clumsy as it is, he hopes the lexicon of his open system traces the branches of the world-tree we call reality well enough to guide us at least a few steps forward along the philosophic path toward its roots. He […]

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