Methuselah: Trees of Old

Methuselah, still growing at 4,843 years old in the White Mountains of California

While humans surpass the traditional threescore and ten with modern medicine, some trees have been growing for well over 4,000 years. This is certainly a feat and possible through their ability to add new cells without mutation, even while sections are rotting. Most old ones are slow growing like the yew and bristlecone pine. In fact bristlecone pines are so slow growing that they may not be able to sustain their population and are a protected species. Methuselah, currently the oldest and located in eastern California, has been verified at 4,843 years old via core sampling.

The Buddha, 563 BC. Methuselah had already been growing for more than 2,000 years

If we think about that for a moment, that tree has been around and outlived the Bronze Age, the Egyptian dynasties, the Iron Age, the birth of Buddha, the life and death of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, the birth of Christianity and the destruction of Jerusalem, the dictation of the Koran by Mohammed, the slaughter during the Crusades, Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire, Christopher Columbus, the declaration of independence by the U.S.A, the industrial revolution, world wars and the development of modern science which led to the core sampling in 1957.

Lightning storms above the forest

But things have changed since the Bronze Age. Nearly 5000 years ago there were 14 million humans living scattered across the globe, now there are 7 billion. And these 7 billion are certainly not living the same way as the 14 million were – so perhaps you would have some understanding if Methuselah looked upon a nearby hiker with a gnarly eye of suspicion. That eye which has seen thousands of summers and winters, fires and storms, droughts and flash floods, countless birds and scurrying beetles – yet it is the human who is in the ironical position of being able to appreciate its age while being the most threatening.

The question is, especially for Methuselah, can humans learn and can they change? All actions spring from thought, and thought and behaviour arise from identity and our conception of the identity of others, which yield relationships. The relationship between Methuselah and humans is currently troubled, but it is not cast in stone. We need to revisit the conception of ourselves and the conception of other living things and our relationship to them. It is only a matter of thinking.

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