Opinion: The Lessons of the Lorax Tree in La Jolla
Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:
Note: Pastor Rev. Tim Seery at the Congregational Church of La Jolla was so moved by the toppling of La Jolla’s beloved Lorax Tree, that he sat down and put his thoughts into words, which I share below — Molly Bowman
“This past Easter, we at the Congregational Church, held one of our Easter morning services gathered around the towering Monterrey Cyprus that once stood in Scripps Parks as a living testament to the legacy of Dr. Seuss. We gathered around this tree not simply because it and the surrounding coastline served as a stunning backdrop to our worship, but because it, along with the body of Dr. Seuss’ work, greatly informs our faith. I believe, that now, more than ever — even in its absence — this great Monterrey Cyprus is still telling us something. And we must listen.
As pastor of a faith community I see it as my primary task to facilitate experiences that help people grow in their relationship with the divine. This takes many forms. On Easter I wanted our worship to take place outside in the natural cathedral that is our La Jolla coastline. In our tradition, Easter is the pinnacle of our faith. It is the day we proclaim that light and life will always defeat death and darkness. I considered it a great privilege to lead worship in front of this iconic tree, one said to have inspired Dr. Seuss’ classic, “The Lorax.”
While Seuss’ stories often employed parable and allegory that seemed to bear theological and religious significance, he was himself not an overtly religious person. Despite this, as a graduate of Dartmouth College , Seuss was an alumni of a school established by ministers of our Congregational tradition. This — combined with the values of justice and equality at the heart of both his work and our faith tradition — connect us at the Congregational Church of La Jolla to Seuss in a profound way.
There is a lesson at the heart of each of Dr. Seuss’ books. Perhaps the most poignant lesson from “The Lorax” is found in the words of the Lorax himself. As a keeper of the endangered trees he proclaims: “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” I perceive this as not only a call for environmental stewardship, but as call to stand with and beside all of those in our community and world whose voices are silenced and oppressed.
We gathered around this tree on Easter morning to remind ourselves that as people who proclaim the triumph of love over hate and justice over injustice that we have a responsibility to work toward a world where everyone and everything can sing the hallelujahs of Easter.
Now that the tree is no more, I am not lamenting. My tradition teaches a thing or two about grief, presence, absence, love and loss. The tree that we all treasured in Scripps Park was a symbol. And while symbols are important, what is more important is what they represent. Yes, we have lost the symbol, the landmark, the visual reminder, but we still have the message. The important thing is that we continue to tell the story. That we continue to give voice to those that don’t have voice.
On the side of our church, we have hung a banner with the central beliefs of our faith. It says: “Protect the environment, care for the poor, forgive often, reject racism, fight for the powerless, share earthly and spiritual resources, embrace diversity, love God, enjoy this life.” The tree that was at the heart of our community will live on anytime we help amplify the voices of our world that are silenced. Anytime we stand with immigrants, the poor, the forgotten, the addicted, the grieving, and the lost. May it be so.”
• SEE RELATED STORY: ‘Lorax Tree’ ceases to be: But was fallen Scripps Park icon even connected to Dr. Seuss at all? — lajollalight.com/news/story/2019-06-19/lorax-tree-ceases-to-b