Monday, December 7, 2020

The Wisdom Tree: A Christmas Story


Chris Martin was driving home from his work place earlier than usual. Usually he would leave his work about 4:30 pm, but this day he had left at 12, noon.  It was Christmas Eve, however that fact had little to do with Chris’s early departure.

Chris had arrived at his job on time, at 8:00am.  Out of the ten years he worked for the company, he was late only twice.  Once when his wife Elizabeth gave birth to their son Danial, and another when a record snow storm dumped 27 inches of the light and fluffy.  To say he was a responsible and dedicated employee, would be an understatement, for he was that and much more. 

There was a mood of excitement vibrating in the office.  Everyone seemed to be anticipating the festivities of Christmas Eve, and anxious to have at it. The din of excited voices was a background for the spirited activity going on:  people were laughing and talking with great animation, exchanging gifts, eating cookies and candy, drinking eggnog and hot apple-cider, singing Christmas Carols, and some of the men were stealth fully maneuvering the attractive women under the mistletoe to steal a kiss.

Chris too, was caught up in the festive excitement and anticipation of the morning.  After work he was to meet his wife and his children, Daniel and Lisa, at his in-laws house.  Of all the delightful experiences of the Christmas Season, Chris enjoyed this get-together most.  Every Christmas Eve for the past fifteen years, Elizabeth’s parents would graciously host a wonderful dinner, followed by the playing of Christmas Carols on the piano with the accompaniment of the guest’s voices, and then the opening of gifts.

Chris was standing at the work station of his friend Joe, talking with several other office workers.  He asked Joe, “Have you seen Stan.”  Stan was Chris’s best friend at the office and his immediate supervisor.  Joe answer, “No! I haven’t seen him this morning.  He’s missing all the fun.  Maybe he got caught by one of the big wigs, and had to do some butt kissing.”  Chris looked at his watch, 11:00am.  He needed several hours to put the finishing touches on a project that was dead-lined for today.  As he walked to his desk, Chris wondered why Stan wasn’t in the office.  It wasn’t like Stan to miss out on all the fun.

Chris sat at his desk and turned on the computer.  On the screen was a pulsating message, “you got mail:” he pulled up the message.  It was a memo from Walter Becker, the Vice President of Human Resources, to all the employees of the Department of Engineering Support.   It said, “Due to a decision made by the Board of Directors, and in keeping with company policy of “expense leanness,” the Dept. of Engineering Support has been terminated, as of Jan. 1, 2000.  All employees of said department must vacate their work stations by close of the work day on Dec. 31. 1999.  All holiday pay and any vacation pay will be paid in full.  Please check with payroll for further questions or details. 

This is strictly a business decision, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the overall performance of the Dept. or any of its workers.  The Dept. has performed excellently over the years.

Human Resources is open to you if you need help in finding new employment or to foreword references.”

                                            “Happy Holidays!”


This memo was in direct violation of the idea of human resources, and its intent was decidedly mean spirited and hypocritical, regardless of its undertone of apology and guilt.  A sociopath seeking his heart’s desire would have acted in a similar manner.  Bing told the decision was strictly business and that nothing personal was involved, puts me in mind of scenes in gangster movies, where the Mafia Hitman tells his victim, just before he murders him, “Nothing personal, just business.”  Chris found no comfort or relief in those words because the economic foundation for him and his family had been shattered by the contents of that memo.

Chris printed out a copy of the memo, and with it in hand immediately walked to Stan’s office.  He was in such a state of shock and bewilderment that he didn’t notice the uproar in the office.  The festive mood had changed to one of discord.  Of the 50 people that made up the department, most of the woman were sobbing uncontrollably, and the others were angrily shouting and moving about in great agitation. 

Stan was not in his office.  Chris, for some strange reason needed verification of this shocking state of affairs, so he went upstairs in order to speak with Walter Becker.  The receptionist recognized Chris as being a worker from the Dept. of Engineering Support and immediately became uneasy.  “I am sorry,” she said, Mr. Becker is not in his office.  Would you like to leave a message?”  Chris in a demanding voice asked, “Where did he go?”  She kept her head down so as not to be able to look into Chris’s eyes, “He is at the annual, executive Christmas party, at the downtown Hilton.  He will not be in his office until Monday.”  Chris quickly turned away without saying another word, and walked to the elevator.  His original shock and bewilderment was now turned up a notch, but still feeling the need for verification, pressed the elevator button for the basement.  Chris had remembered that Stan occasionally used a vacant maintenance room in the basement when he wanted to, “Get away from it all.”

Chris walked off the elevator towards the maintenance room, still clutching the copy of the memo in his hand.  He pushed open the door, and there sat Stan.  Stan was sitting on a chair propped against a blank wall. The back of his head was against the wall, and his eyes were gazing on an invisible spot on the blank wall in front of him.  Chris walked into the small room and paused, then pointing to the memo in his hand and said, “Do you know about this memo?”  Stan like the receptionist, averted looking at Chris eyes, while he answered, “Yes.”  Chris let out with a series of questions all at once:  “What the hell is going on?”  “What are you going to do?  How could they be so cold, especially on Christmas Eve?  Did you know about this before today?  Is it true?”  Stan bent forward, laying his head in both of his hands, saying nothing.  Looking intently at Stan waiting for an answer, Chris suddenly understood the truth.  With an accusatory tone he said, “You knew all along; didn’t you?  How long have you known Stan, two weeks, two months, two years; how long Stan?”  Stan was silent.  Chris continued, “They didn’t terminate you, did they Stan?  All that ass kissing and carousing with Becker finally payed off.  That is way you weren’t in your office this morning, and way you were cowering down here like Judas.  You probably even helped them collect data that was used to justify terminating the Department.  They probably promised you a raise and a promotion; right Stan?”  Stan lifted his head from his hands and turned towards Chris and said, “The whole think was completely out of my hands.  I couldn’t do anything about it.  There were inefficiencies.”  Stunned by the realizations of Stan’s betrayal, Chris said, “I thought you were my friend.  You should have told me.  Hell! You should have told us all.  You betrayed our friendship.” Chris crumpled up the memo in his hand and threw it at Stan, then walked away in silent gloom.  Chris returned to the office only to fine that it was empty.  He walked to his work station, put on his coat and left.

Chris’s initial shock and bewilderment, morphed into continuous, inner dialog of negative thoughts and emotions: ‘What is going to happen to my family?  There is the mortgage payment, car payment, insurance, monthly household expenses, Lisa’s dance class, Danial’s hockey program.  How will we ever make it?  I should have seen this coming.  I should have made plans?  How am I going to tell Elizabeth?  We will have to give up all we worked so hard for.’  Chris’s mind was quickly moving into deep despair and hopelessness as he drove home.                                                                                                         

His imagination filled his mind with the direst of scenarios, as he pulled into his driveway.  He knew that Elizabeth and the children were at his in-law’s home helping prepare the dinner. 

Although relieved at not having to tell bad news to his family, Chris was unable to quell his anxiety.  His anxiety penetrated so deep that it started a contraction that radiated through his entire body; even being in his own house was not enough to bring him repose.  Chris moved around his house like a man in a room with rattlesnakes.  For no apparent reason, he picked up his winter boots, sat down and put them on.  Next put on his parka, pulled a wool hat over his head, picked up his gloves, and walked out of the house.  He had no idea where he was going, just started walked.

The snow squeaked under his boots. He was moving like a man that was being chased, not by some menacing form, but by his own fears, doubts, and anxiety.  He turn right, heading towards the state park that abutted his property.  The park was a wetland reserve, interwoven with springs, large standing ponds, and walking and biking trails.

Chris was very familiar with this area.  He and his family had spent many pleasant hours hiking through the park. Chris entered the park from its west side and immediately descended into a valley.  The walking trails had been cleared of snow, making the going fairly easy.  Chris paused, looked around, and noticed a tree so tall it stood towering over all the other trees.  He wondered why he hadn’t noticed it before now.  It seemed to be a mile or so away and to the south.  He followed a trail with his eyes that led in the direction of the tree.  He turned right, and began walking on the trail which lead in the direction of the large tree.

After three-quarters of a mile, the trail took an abrupt turn towards the east, leading away from the tree.  If Chris wanted to continue his quest for the tree, he would have to make a quarter mile path of his own, trudging through light snow of about a foot deep.  He paused at this jointure, looked at the trail east, than to the tree, measuring the effort needed.  With watering eyes and smoking breath, he began a high stepping march to the tree.

Chris finally reached the tree, and with sweating brow and heaving chest began to survey it.  The tree was about eighty or ninety feet high.  Its diameter was about eight feet.  It was an old Cottonwood.  Chris took off his right glove and felt the tree’s thick, craggy bark.   Along the north side of the tree and running west to east was a spring fed creek, mostly frozen, save for trickles of running water here and there, where the rays of the sun hit.  Chris started to walk around the base of the tree.  As he moved towards its back side, noticed a small alcove formed by jetting roots.  It seemed the perfect place to sit down.  Strange as it may seem, Chris thought the tree had somehow, actually invited him to sit there; so he did.  The tree that Chris decided to sit under was a Wisdom Tree.  This was not some exotic species of North American tree, but a tree that has over the many years, self-initiated its self into wisdom.  All trees have the capacity to become a Wisdom Tree, but because of the long effort needed to attain such status, most fall short of the mark. 

What is needed to become a Wisdom Tree is an unbending desire to help others; to sacrifice your life, if necessary, for the sake of someone else.  This is no small task, only those of the strongest character can endure the everyday trials and tribulations, necessary to gain the highest degree of tree sentience.  Chris had the good fortune to be sitting under the most wondrous and extraordinary tree of all, a Wisdom Tree.

Chris sat under the Wisdom Tree with his legs crossed, Indian style, and gently leaning back his shoulders and head against the tree, closed his eyes, took a deep breath and began to exhale slowly.  He opened eyes, and to his surprise, found that he now was standing inside a large cave.  There was no light source that he could find, but the entire cave was brilliantly lit.  He surveyed the cave until his eyes encountered a most, unusual sight.  To his right was a man dressed in a white robe, levitating, one foot off the cave floor, and completely engulfed in a flame.  This tongue of fire would change colors, from white to red, to orange, to pink, to green, to blue, to gold, to yellow, and continued to change, in what seemed to Chris to be a random sequence.  Whenever the flame was red or orange or pink, Chris felt its heat, as the flame change from red to green, blue or purple, Chris felt its chilling effect.  The man in the white robe, seemed to undisturbed by the flame and its color change.  His demeanor never varied.  Levitating above the ground completely encircled by flame or drinking a cup tea, it was all the same to the man in the white robe.

To Chris’s left, on the floor of the cave, was a mound of the most exquisite uncut, gem stones, gold and silver jewelry studded with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, heaps of gold and silver coins, goblets, thick bracelets and rings.  Chris’s mouth was wide open with awe, as his eyes fixated on that mound of splendor.  This was the proverbial “king’s ransom.” It’s worth would have to be calculated in terms of zillions of dollars.  Chris thought, ‘just one of these stones could immediately solve my current problems, and bring economic security to my family for the rest of our lives.’ Chris’s fixation on the mound of treasure broke, and his perception expanded to include both the man in the white robe and the treasure mound.  Although the man in the white robe’s sphinx like expression had not changed, he had somehow communicated with Chris.  Chris understood that the man in the white robe had given him a clear choice.  Chris could either take whatever he desired from the mound of treasure or join the man in the white robe standing in the flame.  Chris understood that the mound of treasure was not an illusion, and that whatever he decided to take from the treasure would be in fact be real.  Chris thought, ‘this is a no brainer,’ and with glee, started moving to his left to pack his pockets with treasurer, then paused.  Looking at the man in the white robe, Chris began to wonder, ‘What strange and wonderful powers does this man possess?’  He seems completely content, and not at all disturbed about having access to or giving up all that wealth.’  He wondered, ‘if I join him, will I too know peace and contentment? ‘that flame doesn’t consume the man in the white robe, but I feel its heat and coolness.  If I join him, will I be consumed by the flame?’  Chris felt two separate desires operating within him at the same time.  One was actually moving him in the direction to join the man in the white robe, the other saying, ‘No take the treasure.’  The desire to join the man in the white robe came from a much deeper part of Chris’s mind, and against his own opposition, Chris joined the man in the white robe. 

Chris entered the flame, and became so stimulated that he thought that he wouldn’t be able to stand it.  The stimulation was so intense and so exciting that it was like experiencing extreme pain.  It was like having every nerve in your body pulled out, then reconnected to a higher voltage, or a better analogy might be, like jumping into Lake Superior up to your neck, in November.  As the stimulation waned, Chris became calm, more than that, he became peaceful.  He felt great emotional security.  He know, somehow, he belonged there.  It was like coming home from a long voyage.  He felt loved, but not in any way that he had previously known.  He not only felt this complete love, but began to consciously radiate it back out through his heart.  His mind was crystal clear, like some kind of thought laser had cut out the superfluous, leaving only that which was most relevant. Chris understood that the loss of his job was, not a separate problem; that all things came out of this big, crystal clear mind, and that he hadn’t lost anything.  He had created his previous job out of his own mind’s effort, and he could create another job situation.   He understood that his life, his destiny was the result of his thoughts and actions, and if he changed his thoughts and actions he would change his destiny. 

Chris felt so peaceful, so contented, so loved that he wanted to stand next to the man in the white robe forever.  In an act of conscious surrender to this peace, Chris slowly closed his eyes.  When he opened his eyes, he was shocked to find himself sitting under the Wisdom Tree.  The sudden reappearance under the tree, startled him, but was quickly over taken by a wild excitement.  It was like Scrooge’s excitement, after he realized he wasn’t dead, and had time to mend his ways.  Chris jumper to his feet, patted the Wisdom Tree’s bark, thanking it loudly many times, and now being relieved of his mental burdens, ran like a wild man home.  Chris burst through the door, and left a trail of gloves, hat, boots, and coat, as he ran into his house.  While in the living room he looked at the clock, it showed 6:00 pm.  He put his tornadic excitement in neutral, as he surprisingly thought, ‘I must have been gone for at least 5, hours.’   Now realizing that he was late for the dinner at his in-laws, put himself back into high gear.  While speeding to get dressed, he heard the beep, beep, of the answering machine.  He pressed the answering machine on, he heard, “Chris this is Jim Winthrop.  I found out through Stan, that you lost your job today.  I want to offer you a job in my company.  We are a small business that is in the process of expanding.  We need good people to help us grow, and I know you are the kind of person we are looking for.  If you are interested phone me after Christmas.    My number at work is, 989-6242.  Merry Christmas!” 

After hearing the message, Chris was awe struck.  It was like someone waved a magic wand, and turned all of his wishes into reality.  He flashed back to the cave and his experience with the man in the white robe.  He smiled, and thought, ‘big crystal mind and faith, could there be any doubt?’  Now that he had some time to reflect on his experience with the man in the white robe, Chris recollected that the man in the white robe seemed familiar.  Chris was sure that he knew the man in the white robe, but try as he may was unable to place were it was that he had known him. Chris came out of his reflection, and once again began to ready himself for the Christmas dinner party.  He was anxious to be with his family. 

Chris had a wonderful time with his family at the Christmas dinner.  In point of fact in was the best Christmas ever.  He told his wife and children of the experiences he had had that day.  They were all very grateful and happy by the satisfactory outcome.

Chris did return Jim Winthrop’s phone call and accepted the job offer, and at a substantially higher rate of pay. ‘Could there be any doubt’?


Have a wonderful holiday season, and may the light of the New Year bring fulfillment to all your aspirations.  And oh! Who do you think the man in the white robe is? 


                                One truth, many paths.   Be good, do good.


                                                           Louis DiVirgilio    




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