If you had to guess, what would you say is the most valuable thing in the world by weight?
If you’re a cook, you might pick costly foods like beluga caviar or white truffles. Or perhaps the spice saffron, which can go for thousands of dollars per pound.
If you’re a jewellery lover, your mind might go to precious metals like silver, gold or platinum. You’d know that gold has been revered since ancient times, and sometimes goes for thousands of dollars per ounce.
You’d be getting warmer if you worked in industry and knew that some substances used in things like catalytic converters are very costly indeed. Rhodium and palladium are even more valuable than gold.
These would all be good guesses, but not even close.
What about diamonds as the most valuable thing on earth by weight? Very rare coloured diamonds such as the red can be valued at millions of dollars per gram.
If you’re a scientist, you might get closer by guessing plutonium, used to fuel nuclear reactors. Or you might figure you’ve hit the jackpot by picking antimatter, which might power spaceships one day.
This substance requires inconceivable amounts of energy to generate. It’s estimated that antimatter costs tens of billions or even trillions of dollars per gram.
But there’s one thing on earth more valuable than even that…
Have you ever been tempted to carve initials or names in the trunk of a tree?
Perhaps linking yours with those of someone you love, like “M + F” or “Josh loves Amanda”? The inscriptions could last for centuries, emblems immortalizing your love for generations to come.
(Of course, as a nature lover, I’d rather people not make carvings in the bark of a living tree. But I can understand the impulse to do so.)
In fact, people have been engraving things on tree trunks for millennia.
Birch trees are a natural choice due to their white bark. The smooth silver-grey bark of beech trees is also a magnet for trunk-carvers. Indo-European peoples have used it for writing-related purposes since antiquity. In some modern European languages, the words for “book” and “beech” are either very close or identical. No wonder the beech has been called the “patron tree” (sort of like a patron saint) of writers.
Did you know that God sometimes inscribes things in usual places, too?
When I was a little girl, I loved to explore in the woods.
One day I came across a cicada clinging to a tree trunk. Except this insect didn’t look alive: its body was transparent, and it never moved.
What was wrong with the cicada, I wondered?
I finally realized that I wasn’t looking at a live bug, but rather at its discarded exoskeleton.
When it’s time for a nymph cicada to turn into an adult, it clings to a tree and sheds its outer body. The abandoned shell remains, still clinging to the bark of the tree, while the “reborn” cicada flies off.
The Taj Mahal, in Agra, India, is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful buildings, and rightly so. Built from white marble, it was commissioned in 1631 by Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died that year giving birth to their fourteenth child.
For many in India and around the world, the Taj Mahal is an iconic symbol of love. Every stone and jewel used in its construction speaks of the tremendous affection the Shah had for his wife, and his grief at her passing. To many people, the Taj Mahal is the embodiment of love.