Elizabeth mentioned that she knew about Shel Silverstein’s poetry, “And oh, that book about a jerk of a person.” I correctly deduced that she was referring to The Giving Tree. The truth is that the tree is not real. It is rather the platonic ideal of motherhood or Mother Nature or certain conceptions of God: something that gets pleasure only through giving. The boy is all of us: searching for fulfillment from outside things and experiences — all of them doomed to disappoint.
It makes me think of the nature of friendship. A friend is not someone who helps you move to a new place; a friend is someone who you help move to a new place. It is, of course, great when friendship is reciprocated. But the nature of it is what you are willing to do and the feelings that you have. And so the giving tree has a very great friend in the boy. The boy, on the other hand, is a sad figure — alone in the world, apparently without friends.
Of course, if I wanted to, I could provide an endless number of interpretations of the book. It has much to say about aging and the need to be useful. All of the interpretations are poignant and edifying. That’s what makes it so great. “And the tree was happy.” It is what we all aspire to. We don’t need apples or branches or trunk for that.