August 1st, 2015| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


It appears, scientists claim, that climbing a tree helps your working memory.

In a recent study in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills, researchers from the University of North Florida investigated “proprioceptively dynamic activities,” i.e., behaviors that require one to be keenly aware of the spatial position and location of one’s different body parts, so that the action can be carefully coordinated. It seems that such activities improve one’s working memory. Climbing trees is a prime example of a “proprioceptively dynamic activity.”

Subjects ranging in age from 18 to 59 were tested on their working memories before and after a variety of dynamic activities: climbing trees, navigating narrow beams, running barefoot, negotiating obstacle courses. There was a 50% improvement of working memory as a result.

In fact, all it took to improve memory was a few minutes of such activities. The effect was instantaneous. I’m not sure how long it lasted—perhaps as long as they were on a tree?

Ross Alloway, lead scientist, announced:

By taking a break to do activities that are unpredictable and require us to consciously adapt our movements, we can boost our working memory to perform better in the classroom and the boardroom. This research suggests that by doing activities that make us think, we can exercise our brains as well as our bodies.”

I don’t know about all that, but climbing a tree certainly improved the memory of Zaccheus, the “small-in-stature” tax collector, with regard to his past misdeeds.

You know the story:

Zaccheus was a wee little man,
And a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed that way,
He looked up in that tree.
And He said, “Zaccheus, you come down!
For I’m going to your house today.
For I’m going to your house today.”

And Zaccheus replied to Jesus:

“Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor,
and if I have defrauded anyone of anything,
I will give back four times as much.”
Luke 19:8

The sycamore is actually a fig tree and would have been recognized as such by readers. And figs in Luke are significant. Jesus said:

“For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.
The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good;
and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil.”
Luke 6:44–45

Later you have the parable of the farmer coming to collect figs from his tree and finding none (13:6–9)—this in the context of repentance (13:1–5).

Luke is hinting at Zaccheus’s repentance. And, curiously enough, the Greek for “sycamore tree” (sykamorea) kinda sounds like the Greek for “defraud” (sykophanteō).

The man climbed a sykamorea and remembered his extortionary activities (after all he was engaging in a “proprioceptively dynamic activity”) and repented of his sykophanteō-ing.

And it surely is ironic that a man named Zaccheus (= Righteous) was defrauding! But climb a tree he did, and jog his memory it did. And so he repents.

To which Jesus said appreciatively, …

And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house,
because he, too, is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:9–10

I need to find me a tree ….

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