The man was told ‘lilacs belong to the essence of death’. ‘How curious.’ he ruminated. ‘How could such an association happen and what does it mean?’ He stared at the lilac tree and could not see the death inherent in it. ‘If indeed…’ he continued ‘…it is indeed a mere association and not somehow something that the tree is intrinsically connected.’ But he could clearly see that such a connection was difficult to speak about and seemed rationally highly unlikely, not to say unintelligible. Firstly death would need to be some kind of force that had a quasi autonomous existence apart from particular deaths and secondly there would have to be some way in which this dubious essence fused -presumably on some metaphysical/aetheric level- with the essence of lilacs. This curious fusion was then somehow discernable by certain folk with the eyes to see the connection[s].
The associative explanation seemed more rational. Everything is cultural; the interpretation of a plant as having this kind of meaning exists contingently owing to some form of qualitative association, possibly its colour, possibly its time of flowering; there were surely several options on the table.
‘I do not believe I believe in such folklore, no matter where the connection lies’ he stated ‘and what is more the tree seems to have a fascinating appearance that I should like to delve into deeper.’ Thus he delved deeper into the tree, staring at it intently, visualising its new buds, its growth structure, its peeling bark, its easily rotting wood and that absence that marked its center. He returned again and again to the tree, always vaguely haunted by the putative ghost of Thanatos; but then pushing it to one side as irrational.
He stared, and perceived the tree again and again. Then one day soon after, one of his cats disappeared and did not return. He scarcely dared to think that the two phenomena might be connected. Indeed how really could they be? The whirling world of random events had played a card which tempted the interpretation of the link. But the truth was there was no link. There could be no link. Primitive parts of his mind must be denied their reason.
So he persisted with his experiment and his holding the lilac tree in his mind. Thinking how interesting it would be to see it beyond its budding. To watch the transformation of the buds to leaves, and to see the flowers emerge, to see the plants and insects that flourished in its wake throughout the year.
Then soon after that the train he was on, struck someone and though they did not die, it seemed a death-like thing to happen. ‘Surely being struck by a train belongs to the essence of death?’ he pondered. And he thought, ‘this is a curious situation, for I cannot deny that both of these events make me wonder about my lilac investigation and the information I was initially given about it. I can know nothing other than the rational appearance of the world such that it tells me it is just in my foolish superstitious mind that there is a connection here. Yet I cannot gain certainty of this separation and furthermore what kind of horrible gamble is it that I play here. If it is true -not matter how inexplicably- then these events will persist as long as I interact with the plant yet it seems so blatantly coincidental that it would be insane to refrain from the study of a beautiful plant for this reason. Reason must triumph. There is no connection here.
Then his other cat was killed and then the body of the first was found and he wept and cursed his own stupidity. But he had not gained certain knowledge that lilac belongs to the essence of death, but similarly it now would have seemed outrageous to persist in this endeavor. Clearly his mind was not fit to separate the two phenomena. It seemed that even the smallest most irrational chance of a real connection existing (either intrinsic or associative) that was capable of making an interaction with lived reality was not worth taking.
He turned his attention to the apple tree and found solace there.