The best time to plant a tree (Quote of the Month, November 2010)
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
This is one of the quotes that cannot be taken literally. I mean, if the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, it would make sense that the second best time was nineteen years ago. Or something like that.
Like with many proverbs, the outer “story” (planting a tree in this case) is just a vehicle for the meaning, and shouldn’t be understood word for word, but metaphorically. The meaning of this quote is of course that it is never too late to do what should have been done, as it can always be done now.
On a personal level, this quote reminds us that probably we are still able to follow many dreams that we once might had, but never followed through and now they are almost forgotten. It reminds us that what we are today is the result of countless choices that we made or didn’t make in the past, and that the future can only be changed in the now.
And we may not even witness the results of our actions; the trees that we plant today will take years to grow to full size and we may not even be alive then any more.
So, this quote can even be applied to a broader social level. What kind of world do we want to leave to our descendants? And what kind of trees do we need to plant in that case?
*According to different sources this may be African and/or Chinese proverb.