“I believe in God, the creator of heaven and earth.”

Many Christians “proclaim” this manifesto at their Sunday worship services.

I find it a powerful, goosebump-inducing statement of belief.

I had a pretty comprehensive education at the University of Montreal. There, we studied physics, organic chemistry, geology, astronomy, higher mathematics and philosophy — having previously studied literature, history, economics, French, German, biology and chemistry at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick. We ended with the “cathode-ray tube.”

That was back in 1953.

Last fall, I signed up for “Weird Physics,” a very interesting course at the University of Southern Maine’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for senior citizens.


Our well-informed professor tendered to us the latest in quantum physics, launched by Albert Einstein.

He warned us that from now on, advances in physics will seem to us laymen to be “weird.”

He affirmed that we humans are all made up of atomic particles, which are also energy, manufactured in the stars.

OK. So …

Reaching back to my philosophy courses, I remember a classical principle: “Nemo dat quod non habet,” or “No one gives what it does not have.”

So if we humans came from atomic particles and we have intelligence, therefore, atomic particles must have something that gave rise to our intelligence. We can call it “the psychic factor.”


Millions of years ago, as life advanced, it divided into two branches: animal and vegetable.

Animal life evolved into us humans — with intelligence.

What about the vegetative life?

It, too, evolved.

Take a tree, for instance. It is alive. It evolved from primitive life. It adapted to climatic conditions. It evolved a way of nutrition — growing leaves and roots. It breathes as we do, except that it breathes in carbon dioxide and breathes out pure oxygen for us to breathe in.

It devised a method of reproduction — by means of brightly colored, sensually smelling blossoms.


So, does a tree have the “psychic factor” — different, perhaps, from our intelligence, but present nevertheless?

The term “person” is a philosophical and legal term that is reserved only for humans. But there is no reason why we cannot apply the term “personality” to a tree.

In fact, once you do, a remarkable experience occurs. Try this:

Go out to your nearest tree. Assume that it has a personality. Notice that it is alive, with essentially the same kind of life you have.

Notice how its leaves have adapted. Notice its branches and how no tree is exactly like another. Think that it might possess the “psychic factor,” only in a different form than it took in animals.

Then recite the opening line of Shel Silverstein’s poem/book, “The Giving Tree”: “Once there was a tree And she loved a little boy “


Let me know your reaction.

The Rev. Joseph R. McKenna is a retired, but still active, Roman Catholic priest who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]


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