Monday, March 19, 2012

We are like the Trees

We start out so small, so easily removed. But give us just a few days, weeks, months and we dig down deep into the hearts and lives of our family. How devastated we are to lose a child, even before she is born. We grow every day and early on in noticeably amazing, physical ways. Given the open space and abundant resources, we spread wide and reach up, the sky literally the limit.

Look at the biggest oak tree growing in an open field. See how it's reached out in all directions and lifted high and dug deep, deep down, clinging to the earth. As Ayn Rand described in Atlas Shrugged, the tree has dug so deep that if a giant tried to tear it from the earth he wouldn't be able to and instead would end up swinging the earth like a ball on a string. Yet, we know its fragile. This immense tree, like our delicate human lives, could be destroyed in a moment. Lightening. Chainsaw.

But what about the trees in the tightly packed forest? Who struggle for room to grow, for a way to the light? Even those trees grow. They are forced to grow around boulders, over each other. As their roots dig down, searching for space to grow, they become entangled with other trees' roots. And doesn't the competition then become their strength? When the wind blows and the rain pours, doesn't the integrated root system keep then all from toppling over? Each tree draws from the soil water and nourishment, from the sky sunlight and air, and, hopefully, there is enough for all.

They all grow to the limits of their resources, whether alone in a field or together in the woods. And then they die; giving back their bodies to the ground, and to the collective. Are the ones in the forest stronger for their connectedness, for they are a forest together, a tree alone? Is one more important than the other? There would be no forest without the trees. Do trees need each other to grow? Do trees become stronger from the competition?

Can one tree grow to amazing depths and breadth without the forest to contend with? Do trees in a forest grow taller and root stronger? And which is better? To have the whole field to oneself? Or to be challenged in the forest? There is more than one way to grow, more than one way to be.

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