English author Matthew Silverstone writes eloquently about the benefits of hugging trees in his new book, “Blinded by Science.“ In fact he credits one tree with healing his son and inspiring him to write this book which covers a range of topics. (See italicized excerpt below.)
I do wonder if his approach is genuinely “scientific” enough to convince skeptics of the connectedness of us humans to everything around us, including the plant kingdom we have evolved alongside for countless generations (thanks, Jan Brittenson, for this reminder), but it’s surely worth a read: http://www.blindedbyscience.co.uk/chapter8_plants.html
When I’m near trees—and always feel better for being so—I don’t brush this phenomenon aside as merely emotional or romantic—or without profound meaning. It’s just meaningful in a different realm than traditional Western science usually pays attention to, with its view of an objective reality, double-blind repeatable experiments, and so on. And yes, there are some folks who don’t care much for trees, and many who have never hugged one.
My way to reconcile the divide between so-called rational and non-rational views of the world and my perceptions of it is to not reconcile them. I simply let them co-exist. Each view, in my experience, has great value yet may forever remain irreconcilable—at least to my rational mind. I could say, deliciously unscientifically, such is often the divide between the head and the heart.
Funny thing is, I believe absolutely that hugging trees is benefical, if “only” from firsthand experience. I know it even today as I step away from my computer to touch the redwood trees outside my office. Call it empiricism if you like, even call it hooey. I call it one of the realms most impenetrable to modern scientific analysis: love.
You go, Matthew.
The real beginning for me, the initial seed of an idea for this book, bizarrely came from a tree. I am sure I have a pretty average knowledge of trees amongst a generation of other city dwellers. I can recognise some trees, but very few of them. I know they grow leaves in the Spring which fall off in the Autumn. I know some trees keep their leaves all year round, I know I really love standing next to big trees and for some reason I always find myself gravitating towards them whilst in the local park. I like trees, but besides climbing them as a child I don’t think I have ever thought much about them. Until that day. The day that someone, for whom I had great respect, casually told me to go and touch a tree as it would improve my health. Well, you can imagine my look of complete incredulity. It was probably one of the most ridiculous suggestions I think anyone had ever made to me that I should go to the park, stand next to a tree and touch it. Just the thought of it was ridiculous. I am sure I had touched trees before, certainly whilst climbing them as a child and couldn’t remember noticing any physical effect it had on me either positively or negatively. You can understand therefore, I had no intention whatsoever of complying with his wishes and being made to look an idiot in the park, leaning against a tree, getting better. I mean, for how long would I have to do it, one minute, twenty minutes, God forbid an hour and which tree would I touch? A big one a little one – he hadn’t given me an instruction manual. It came as no surprise to me I didn’t take him up on his idea, but what did surprise me enormously, however, was my nineteen year old son took up his suggestion. Watching the result of him touching a tree, completely changed my opinion and in fact opened my eyes to a whole new world. I mean, if a tree can affect us what does that mean? The implications seemed to be huge – so much so that I wanted to investigate further and see what scientific evidence might lie behind it. – Matthew Silverstone, “Blinded by Science”