Tree of Life

The earth becomes a beautiful and peaceful Garden of Eden with trees in it. The ecosystem of all trees works in such a way that they live, grow, and develop, bear fruit until they later wither and die, according to their nature. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in human life; there are people, who cooperate, but there are also people who compete, and there are conflicts as well.

A religion or worldview, whether institutionalized or not, is like a tree. A good tree, its roots grow into the earth and its trunk rises to the sky. It produces oxygen and bears fruit during certain times of the year. Believing people should be like a tree. All believing people should benefit other people and mean them well. Gus Dur said, “If you behave well, people won’t ask what your religion is.” My work entitled “Tree of Life” aims to express this idealism.

All of Indonesia’s religions and belief systems strive after a just, peaceful, and successful life. However, their follower’s behaviour does not always correspond to their faith and religious values. Egoism present on all sides, as well as external factors such as politics exploiting religious sentiments for political interests, are the source of most problems.

Every tree of faith that grows in the garden of Indonesia should be able to reflect on nature and thus find its true nature. Trees in nature are cooperative. They only compete to perform their role in the best possible way, according to their respective nature, but not in conflict. Trees do not have to advertise their qualities, because everyone and everything can benefit from them. The Bible says, “It is useless for them to confess God through their lips, for their hearts and deeds are far from Me [God].”

To think about a good tree thus means to produce as much good or benefit as possible in order to achieve the desired life together, so that diversity does not interfere with social solidarity. Indonesia is a garden with fertile soil for natural trees as well as for trees of faith. The Pancasila is the vessel responsible for connecting religions and belief systems in Indonesia in order to achieve ideal coexistence. Regardless of the shape of the tree of faith, they can all help make the Indonesian garden colourful without wanting to surpass or deny the importance of other trees.

If the followers of religions and belief systems maximize their own potential and focus on themselves to bring fruit and benefit, external factors such as the politics of playing off against each other will not be successful. Nobody can be forced to accept a certain belief or faith. Respecting one another is the solution to achieving harmony. Differences that exist can be discussed in a deliberate and careful way. Dialogue means trying to achieve collective awareness and find answers to the issues that arise while living together.

Religion and belief that are consciously reflected form a divine way of life, in which the ideological, political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of life are ordered based on a scientific and natural view as implemented by the universe. When our life is focused on the way to the essence and existence of the divine truth, the existence of our human life will become the fruit of a blessed life in harmony and peace.

Like a tree in its ecosystem, a human being is a single being whose position is that of the tree: a servant whose master is God himself. Spirituality should be as bright as the light of a large candle. When the light of different candles of a community is collected, this communal light becomes God’s ‘City of Light’: a place of peace and a blessing for the universe.

Note on translation

  1. Gus Dur (1940-2009), whose real name was Abdurrahman Wahid, was an Indonesian politician and spiritual leader; he was particularly committed to inter-religious dialogue and peace between religions. He was Indonesian President from 1999-2001 and was in charge of the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama, for a long time. Because of his commitment to peace and inter-religious dialogue, he was also very much admired by non-Muslim Indonesians.
  2. The Bible verse named by the artist refers to: Matthew 15: 7-9: “You hypocrites, Isaiah prophesied and said of you: This folk draws near to me with their mouths and honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they serve me in vain because they teach such lessons which are nothing but human laws.”
  3. Pancasila is the state’s ideology of Indonesia. It consists of five principles, which are mentioned in the preamble of the Indonesian constitution:
    1. The belief in the One God (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa)
    1. Just and civilized humanity (Kemanusian yang adil dan beradab)
    1. National unity of Indonesia (Persatuan Indonesia)
  4. Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in unanimity resulting from the consulting of the delegates (Kerakyatan yang dipimpin oleh hikmat kebijaksanaan dalam permusyawaratan/perwakilan)
    1. Social justice for all people of Indonesia (Keadilan Sosial bagi seluruh masyarakat Indonesia)