Live in the Trees

There comes a time in life when a book deeply affects you. That time came for me during Lower year. It was winter, and the snow was still on the ground. Everytxhing seemed frozen, old, stuck in time. There was a certain lifelessness that seemed so natural. In a few short weeks, the snow would melt and my mind would not be occupied by the imagination, but by passing the Frisbee on the Great Lawn. However, that time had not yet come. I was reading Italo Calvino’s Baron in the Trees in Mr. Tortorella’s English 200 class. The book is a fictitious account of a boy named Cosimo who decides to reject society and goes to live up in the trees. While living in the trees, he learns to become self-sufficient, creating everything he needs to survive. He develops a love of reading, and much of what he learns comes from books. Yet the story is about so much more. If a book has made a strong impression on you, there is usually a passage that comes to mind, something that sums up the reason for loving it. Throughout Cosimo’s life, he protects the trees because he loves them. By the time he reaches old age, the trees support him. The narrator states, “…the shape of the trees made up more and more for his loss of strength. Then, with the advent of more careless generations, of improvident greed, of people who loved nothing, not even themselves, all was to change, and no Cosimo will ever walk the trees again” (103). Cosimo lives his life with integrity. He goes to live up in the trees because he isn’t afraid to live his life the way he wants to. He isn’t afraid to reject the norm and do what he thinks is right. Above all, he isn’t afraid to live life passionately because he endeavors to be honest about what he wants. Very few Cosimos exist in this world, especially at Andover. Andover students lack passion because we cannot love. Each day, we rotate from class to class, from club to club, in a monotonous cycle. We take this class or that class because it will look good on our transcript. We fulfill requirements, learning things that we cannot relate to. We join clubs that do not interest us, but will interest Harvard or Yale. We study for a test that assigns us a number, reflecting our value as a person. A 2400 is godly, while an 1800 is mediocre. We treat the number as if it is tattooed on our wrist. We are then split up and deported to another school. Unlike Cosimo, we do nothing out of love but instead with a sheer sense of haste and efficiency. We create a social network, knowing that our connections will earn us a spot on Wall Street someday. Or, we go around, acquiring signatures from people who will help us to earn votes as class president. In this manner, even people are a means to an end. In our rush from here to there, we forget that we are living. To truly live is to love, to fully appreciate what is around us. However, we are frozen in time, living through our work, sports and clubs, each of which is a means to an end. We are careless and greedy, and cannot love ourselves because we do not know ourselves. If we do not know ourselves then we cannot live with passion and truly feel. Cosimo taught me to not be afraid of feeling. He loved the trees because they gave him a place to be himself. His aristocratic family was not concerned with honesty or integrity, but with superficiality. He became tired of their dispassionate way of life and fled. We must be afraid of those who cannot love because they are careless. Carelessness is born out of not paying attention. If we could stop and see the beauty in life, then we would pay attention. In our society, loneliness has a bad connotation because it suggests that a person separates themselves from others. Yet this loneliness is what made Cosimo discover himself and learn to figure out how to love. Do not be afraid to love. As soon as you love, you cease to pass through life oblivious to its beauty. However, monotony numbs us. We are listening without listening, hearing without hearing, and seeing without seeing. There is no other way to say this. Ben Talarico is a three-year Upper from Suquamish, WA.