The Chestnut Tree

When I was a young boy in elementary school, an event occurred each fall that I eagerly anticipated. A large chestnut tree grew in the front yard of a house I passed each day on my way to and from school. Each year as the cold weather approached, the chestnuts would begin to fall from the tree. The yard was fenced, so many landed in an inaccessible area. The ones that fell outside the fence were quickly grabbed by the children in the neighborhood who, like myself, considered the nuts to be of great value.

This was the only chestnut tree in the area and the competition for the nuts soon got out of hand. The owner of the house, a large, taciturn woman, became somewhat irritated by all the commotion over her chestnuts as children repeatedly scaled her fence to reach the nuts inside the yard. So she decided to bring discipline to the annual event. She designated a day when she would make all the chestnuts available, which involved shaking some branches and knocking nuts from the tree. Children gathered for the event, and there was considerable shoving and pushing as we grabbed for the nuts. The behavior had much in common with the frenzy that characterizes big sales events such as Black Friday.

The chestnuts became magical for all of us. We thought we were accumulating precious gems, and the children with the most chestnuts were greatly envied. For weeks before the event, small groups plotted for some advantage, some way to collect more nuts than the others did. We tried to persuade the owner to let us collect nuts inside the yard, but she insisted we would have to remain outside the fence with the other children.

I am reminded of the famous tulip craze in Holland in 1637, when some tulip bulbs reportedly sold for many times the annual income of skilled workers. Things are worth what people think they are worth. The things you value have precisely the value you give them. Certainly, cars and houses have a monetary value given by the market for such items, but even items like cars and houses have values that can fluctuate rapidly. If the price of gasoline were to skyrocket tomorrow, a car that is not gas efficient would drop in value. And try to sell your house if something occurs that makes your location undesirable.

However, beyond the market value, what is the real value of something? Many value the outcome of a sporting event to the point they become physically ill if their favored team does not prevail. Others may look at the same event and be completely unmoved by the outcome. It has no value for them. We give the things in our lives their value. Like the children with the chestnuts, we decide what has value and should rise to the status of a gem.

At this point, you might wonder what this has to do with dreams. We all have chestnuts in our lives. Often we do not realize it; we forget they are just chestnuts. Dreams can and will point out to you the chestnuts in your life. Your dreams will show you how you have made collecting and protecting those chestnuts your goal. The machinations you perform and sacrifices you make to acquire and retain those chestnuts will become very clear, and a better way will be revealed.

The chestnuts might not be physical objects. They might be thoughts and beliefs. One person might consider people of a certain ethnic background or religion of greater or lesser value. Another person might think one gender is superior to the other, or think having friends of only one gender is superior to being more inclusive. Some might consider Intellectuals superior to athletes or vice versa. The possibilities are endless. However, through attention, reflection, and dreams we can identify our chestnuts. And perhaps we can find the things of real value.

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