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Peach tree and the quest for immortality

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

The first subject of January Fire element is the Peach Tree, or Prunus Persica, a life giving fruit and exalted icon in China and many Asian countries. Why the fascination with eternal life? I get it some times, but not all the time.

Is immortal sustenance a solution or a perpetual problem?

Legends have it that Xi Wangmu, the wife of the Heavenly Jade Emperor owns a garden full of magical peach trees. The blossoms take 3,000 years to show up and 3,000 more to ripe into delicious peaches that grant long life and endless youth. This fairy tale reminds me of Idunn (Iduna) in Norse mythology. It is marvelous how different culture have similar archetypal narratives to express human desires, fear, and the collective unconscious as Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung articulated in their work. Idunn is the goddess that possesses magic apples of immortality, which must be offered to the gods to maintain their youth. A more relative of this fruit is ambrosia, a nectar sustenance that is consumed by Greek gods.

As human of our current time, we might be able to extend our biological existence through life extending substances (aka boosting the telemonerase, the enzyme that sustains the protective caps of our chromosomes to delay the aging of cells), cryonics, cloning, nanotechnology, uploading consciousness, or brain implants for cyborg.

But let's be real, it is not our turn in this life time to touch those inventions, unless you are super wealthy and influential. Plus, I don't know if I want to live forever and have to make the decision to end it at some arbitrary points. In my opinion, if you live magnificently despite of your environmental conditions and events, one life is plenty.

Death could be mercy

For example, Alexander the Great finally found the fountain of youth yet did not take a sip for he meditated upon the eternal torment one must endure if death was no longer an option. Maybe the desire for more time is stemmed from the lack of quality in each moment we are currently rolling over. This very second that you are reading this blog! Hey, how do you feel?

What is the essence of life? Definitely not seriousness!

In each of these traditions around the globe, the fruit is revered as precious and divine, yet Sun WuKong, the Monkey King in a Chinese classic devoured hundreds of them when he crashed the party of Xi Wangmu. I remember rooting for him with great delight because he was so free and playful yet kept being punished by all the serious, properly dressed "adult" gods, goddesses, and virtuous people. He disregarded the effect of these peaches and only enjoyed them for taste which I found refreshing, still.

Chaotic and mischievous characters seem to sit better with the majority. As in Journey to the West, people love Sun Wukong, in Marvel movies and Nordic mythologies, Loki is usually the main draw. Oh wait, Loki did tricked Iduna into leaving Asgard and the gods in danger of their old age. He was the emanation of child play, to plunge society into disarray. He is borderline evil yet what is light without darkness. What is ... without Lucifer, Buddha without Devadatta, and Jesus without Judah.

The universe is a celebration. It is a fireworks show to celebrate that existence is. Wowee!________Alan Watts

In many societies, I believe that we grow up and in the pursuit of optimizing our energy, narrowly focusing on the goals and forgot to savor the sweetness/ bitterness of the process. Adult usually treat playfulness as something they need to grow out of. For the longest time, I discipline myself with productivity bars, always working on myself and be in service of the (imagined) others. It was a structure imposed on me as a young lady from Vietnam. Yes, it was helpful in getting me to places but the act of going on for the sake of going on is quite meaningless when the requisite state for that to happen is rigid and plagued with missions larger than myself. CELEBRATE THE NONSENSICAL is my way out! FUN is an absolute must if one wants to thrive in this life and the next.

Warding off fun and chaos is not too different than keeping evil away from "goodness". Back to the peach tree, its wood is believed to have similar power to the evil eye of Middle Eastern culture (the Nazar amulet), Eye of Horus of Egypt, horned sign hand of Italy, etc. The staff of the Chinese God of Longevity is made of peach wood. The dude is represented as an old old many, playing chess seemingly all the time with his equally elderly mates. On the other hand, peach's blossoms are known to induce an intense trance of love for men in the Taoist magical practice. How exciting the perceived usefulness of different parts of the same tree.

©Wikipedia user Shakko

I have not seen a peach tree in person and there is none trees in Kansas City to my knowledge. So today I will make time to go observe the cherry blossom trees in the park. Do some sketches and find my own way of connecting with their present.

Winter is a great time for wrapping one's mind around how tree develop branch system and react to the surrounding conditions. They need order to grow efficiently and chaos to play and discover new selves over and over again. Speaking of which, I need to introduce more chaos into my life. Any suggestions?

Fun fact: the oldest fossilized peach pit was found in China, supporting the country as being the original home of the species.


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