The Legend of Cyparissus

I was reading the news when I saw that a drug-addicted fool in Florida burned down one of the world’s oldest trees, a 3,500 year old Cypress named “The Senator” that first saw rays of sunshine as it pushed through the soil at the same time some historians believe the Jews were leaving slavery in Egypt.  Allegedly, the 26-year old, named Sarah Barnes, was inside the trunk taking methamphetamine with a friend when they caused the 118-foot-tall giant to catch fire, destroying what is believed to be the 5th oldest tree on the planet.

My first thought after anger over the senseless destruction of the legendary Cypress, was the myth from which the tree received its name.  Cyparissus was a mortal boy, teen, or man depending on the version of the story, who was a lover of the greek God Apollo.  He had a pet deer, whom he adored more than anything else in the world.  One day, while in the forest, Cyparissus accidentally discharged his bow, mortally wounding his pet.  Consumed with grief, remorse, and guilt, he threw his body over the suffering companion as the pet died, transforming into what we now call the Cypress tree.  This is why many cultures around the world still regard a Cypress tree as a symbol of mourning.

Cyparissus Mourning the Death of His Pet

Cyparissus Mourning the Death of His Pet

Disappointments happen.  Sometimes you don’t get cast for “the part of a lifetime”.  Sometimes your business fails.  And sometimes, real tragedy strikes, such as the death of a child, and you experience pain that no amount of time or distance can fully heal.

All you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Do not lie down like Cyparissus.  Do not give up like Cyparissus.  Acknowledge your grief, acknowledge your sadness, and accept that they happened.  They are not an excuse for throwing in the towel on life.  You do not have the right to give up yourself.  Imagine what would have happened if Charlie Munger had given up when he was broke, divorced, and burying his 9-year-old son.

Life can be hard.  It can also be amazing.  In fact, research shows that we humans have an interesting quirk: We value more that which was hard to attain and obtain.  It is the very darkness that seems so insurmountable that makes you value the light.

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  • FratMan

    Nice post, Joshua. Just found out this fun fact. There’s a decent chance you already know it, but if not, it might make your day.

    Did you know that in 1987 the major American stock indices finished positive for the year? A nice little footnote for Black Monday…

  • Mario Petrucci

    I think his transformation into the tree might be a symbol for turning grief into something beautiful and enduring – the myth agrees with you!

    mario petrucci