Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Tree at the Share Fair

The tree is an all-encompassing symbol of creation, knowledge, life, inter-connectedness, wisdom... and most assuredly, one of sharing across cultures. In Africa, in particular, stories are exchanged around a baobab tree, whose trunk is often remarkably reminiscent of human shapes, intertwined and suggesting communication from the roots lying under the soil and the branches above. The tree represents a transformation of what lies unseen and unformed in the dark into concrete outputs represented by its leaves and flowers – ultimately food (e.g. fruit), shelter (e.g. umbrage) and natural energy (e.g. timber). Its seeds are scattered by the wind.

And so the Fair had its tree... born from the hands of Nancy White. A
tree with bare branches in need of leaves... thoughts... inspiration. A tree in winter, which was able to make passers by stop, and fill it with leaves. A strange process was enacted: the more someone would clothe the tree, the more they would expose their own ideas, revealing their feelings and attitude towards sharing. Leaf after leaf.

During the three days of the Fair, everyone passing by the Tree would either stop to read what others had written or, wrote something on the spot, as inspired by the question appended to its foliage: What are your thoughts and ideas about knowledge sharing and the Fair?

Following the outline of the tree leaves, one could find that barriers no longer were there, as an entirely new geography had been designed. One where Asian wisdom (“Of all one’s riches, wisdom is the best gift” – in Hindi) lay close to European poetry (“Do you know the land, where lemon trees grow?”- in German). For sure, one would see that "knowledge is not power..... sharing is!" And so, let us cultivate ways to nurture this spirit of sharing. How? For instance, strengthening the contents of what we share (interview to Margaret Zito, FAO Library). Talking about what we can do (Patrizia Cocca, Global Environment Facility). Bringing back home new beginnings and projects, as arising form the contacts we’ve made at the Fair (Paul Quek, Bioversity International). Mindful that sharing challenges our beliefs, the silo we are confined in and the barriers we have grown fond of. Ultimately, sharing requires daring, for “only creative people can work for sharing” as Ryszard Kozlowski, Editor of the Journal of Natural Fibers, has stressed – in Polish and English.

The tree also benefited from the insights received from the Going Green Group based at FAO. Instead of keeping their initiatives and tips confined to their stall, members of GGG brought spring to the tree, adding a lot of thoughts on how to respect the environment – directly on the tree branches. Many thanks to GGG for sharing directly on the tree!

Further to all this, the tree did one other thing – silently, gently, the tree transformed the Atrium into a garden, into the garden of sharing. And what is a garden?

A garden is a room populated with trees and plants. For some, it is a room to be shared with friends or relatives, a room which can be visited and where time is spent. Many things occur in a garden - the changing of seasons, the aging of trees, the withering of leaves from green into yellow, the blossoming of buds on barren branches, shadow and light… anything happening resumes images from our life.

The experience of the garden is one of true sharing among living beings, between nature and man. So much so that zen practitioners can see gardens buzzing with activity and life even in barren surroundings. More correctly: as springing from barren rocks and sand. How can they do it? Is that why some are talking about the zen of knowledge sharing?

The tree is currently hosted in the FAO Library.

1 comment:

  1. Hindi Saying: धन से किताबें खरीद सकते हो परन्तु ज्ञान नहीं
    (dhan se pustak milti hai kintu gyan nahi...)

    Translation: With money you can buy books but not knowledge...