What if I told you little men lived inside trees? In springtime they crawl through the branches, pushing out leaves one by one as though unfurling tiny flags. Without these little men, springtime would never come. Trees would be forever leafless.
“That’s ridiculous,” you would say.
To which I respond, “But I have faith.”
You laugh dismissively. “Trees are living things. They feed on water and sunlight and carbon dioxide. Leaves grow as a mechanism by which the trees can better take in that sunlight and water. We’ve studied this. We know how it works. It’s not really disputed.”
I look you in the eye. “I have faith in the Little Tree Men.”
“But they don’t exist.”
I laugh. “Prove it.”
You can’t, of course, because one can’t prove a negative.
Soon I hand out books to your children in school. Instead of photosynthesis, the books teach of little men unfurling leaves every Spring. Your children come home and tell you all about it. They love the idea of Little Tree Men. They always will.
I spend millions of dollars building a massive arena named after these Little Tree Men. A thousand-foot-tall leaf emerges from its roof, demonstrating that the grandness and enormity of my devotion dwarfs their miniature stature. I invite people to my arena. I teach them about Little Tree Men. I teach the closeness to nature one might feel while worshiping. I teach that Little Tree Men believe in renewal and forgiveness, which they give to us every Spring, when we are all born again. The Little Tree Mean remind us we must do our jobs and be decent humans despite long metaphorical winters.
People like this message. It’s hopeful and vague. They give me money. With it I build more houses of worship, each more ornate and enormous than the last. I get rich as the money rolls in.
I use the money to buy politicians. I convince them that without Little Tree Men we’ll have no leaves on our trees, and the world will be drab. There will be less oxygen in the air, more carbon dioxide. The earth will warm. Humans will suffocate. It should be a crime, therefore, to water a tree. It may drown the little men, after all. And so the politicians pass laws forbidding the watering or pruning of trees.
You will continue to find this entire scenario absurd. You don’t believe it. How can all these people be so delusional? You’ll write blog posts ranting against such absurdity. I won’t like that, will I?
You’ll come into my little bookstore to buy science books, because you know this is all silly nonsense. You’ll find the books you want, walk to the counter, and I’ll say, “I’m sorry. You don’t believe in Little Tree Men. I’m not going to sell you a book.”
Outrageous! You’ll go to the next store, and the next, and no one will sell you a book. You’ll shout about discrimination and freedom and rights and America, but no one will listen.
It seems I convinced state governments to allow discrimination against anyone who doesn’t believe in Little Tree Men. This is my right. The Constitution protects me against your attacks on my religious freedom. Besides, if you refuse to acknowledge the importance of Little Tree Men, if you fail to understand this world would not be this world without them, you don’t deserve the same rights as true believers. You’re less of a person. You’re less of an American. You don’t deserve to partake in our Capitalism. You don’t deserve my services.
This is insane. You know it is. You post more blogs about your outrage. But I’ve convinced 80% of the country Little Tree Men are real. I rally those people, and we make it illegal to speak or write words that contradict the existence of Little Tree Men. Soon it becomes illegal to say or write anything that portrays Little Tree Men in a negative light. There are no guidelines. We’ll know your blasphemy when we see it.
And so we arrest you for your blog. You go to jail because you don’t believe the invented nonsense of other human beings. You can cite your science. You can cite facts demonstrating how leaves grow on trees. But I will ignore your facts, because I have Faith in my Little Tree Men. I believe they exist. I believe they bring good to our world. Many others also believe, and we’ll continue to believe until you prove us wrong, which you’ll never do.
But you’re still fighting. Good! I’m pulling for you.
You escape from prison. You cut down a tree. You point inside. “Look!” you scream. “It’s solid. There are no branching tunnels for little people to hide in. There are no stockpiles of leaves waiting to be unfurled in the spring. Leaves are an act of nature!” You go on and on about chemical interactions we can’t see with our naked eye.
“Even if that were so,” we’ll say, “how do you think the chemicals got there, if not for the Little Tree Men who put them there?”
You grow more frustrated. You describe the power of sunlight to instigate growth.
Bad idea. The power of sunlight? Sounds like magic. Now you’re a witch.
We would burn you at the stake, but Little Tree Men might die. Instead we shall cast you into the sea. You and everyone like you. You who question our invented mythologies. You who deride our Faith in nonsense. You who blaspheme against the Little Tree Men who make the world a beautiful place.
Have you not read the Little Tree Men’s Book of Renewal? Do you not understand the sacrifice expected of you? If you will not believe in renewal, if you will not worship the givers of that renewal, you deserve no more springtimes. You deserve only winter. Only death. And so you will drown at sea, a forgotten heretic.
How would you like that? Sentenced to death because of a book written my little men who live in trees and unfurl leaves. Absurd right?
Think about it as you celebrate today. Think about it as you worship.
On this day, your Little Tree Men have risen.
Also published on Medium.