Linus (from the Peanuts comic strip) said, “I love mankind . . . it’s people I can’t stand!!”
Have you ever felt that way? It just seems like sometimes, it would be easier to live our lives if we didn’t have to interact with people. They can drive us crazy – and they’re not nearly as committed to our happiness as we are.
Do we really need each other? Or is “connecting” just a survival technique?
What I Learned in the Forest
When I was a kid, our annual family vacation was usually at Sequoia National Park in central California. We would rent a “housekeeping cabin” where we’d cook on a wood stove, then put the leftover food scraps in metal trash cans on the canvas covered porch.
Shortly after dusk each night, we would watch through the windows as black bears would rummage through our trash cans, three feet from us. (They don’t let you intentionally attract bears anymore.)
During the day we would visit the general store, take day hikes out to Crescent Meadow and climb Morro Rock. We would hold peanuts on our laps and watch the chipmunks climb up our legs to grab them, and we’d watch blue jays fight for the ones that dropped (the peanuts, not the chipmunks).
My favorite adventure was the nature walks, led by the park rangers. Every day we would go on a different excursion where these experts described the intricate details of our surroundings. One day it would be about trees. The next, it would be about animals. Then we would learn about the conditions on the forest floor that enabled seeds to grow.
Even at that young age, I was fascinated. I remember how I felt when the ranger said, “We’re surrounded by the largest and oldest living things in the world – the giant Sequoia Redwoods.” She told us that when the first explorers stepped onto the shore of the New World, these trees had already been alive for over a thousand years.
General Sherman was the granddaddy of them all. By volume, it’s the biggest tree in the world. Other trees are taller, but Gen. S. is the beefy one. Weighing about 2 million pounds, it’s been around for about 2200 years (which means it was already 200 years old when Christ was born). Our whole group would circle the tree and touch fingertips, but we never had enough people to reach around the tree.
“What do you think keeps this tree from falling over?” the ranger asked. I had paid attention in science class, and remembered what my teacher told me. “The taproot,” I said. “Trees have one huge room going straight down that holds the tree in place.” I was proud of my chance to show how smart I was.
“Good guess,” she said, “but these giant Sequoias don’t have taproots.”
Now I was confused. Taproots kept trees from falling over during storms, earthquakes and other natural events. Now this ranger was telling us that the largest trees in the world are missing their taproots.
So what holds it up?
“These trees have surface roots that extend sideways for a huge distance – often covering a whole acre of ground from a single tree.”
“But that’s still not enough to hold them up. These trees grow in groves, close to other trees. Their roots reach out and intertwine with the roots of every other tree. That’s where the strength comes from.”
“In simple terms, the trees hold each other up during the worst conditions. If one of these trees was alone, it wouldn’t survive.”
We value independence. I know I do; it’s hard for me to ask for help or depend on someone else. It’s like a two-year old telling her mom, “I can do it all by myself.”
I have a friend who does woodworking, and has purchased just about every tool imaginable. He told me once, “If you ever need a tool, don’t buy it. Just borrow it from me. I have them all.”
Sounds crazy, but I never took him up on it. I wanted to just do it myself – and I ended up spending a lot of money on tools I could have borrowed.
But at least, I have them if I need them in the future, right?
It’s a way of exerting my independence. I don’t need my friend’s tools because I have my own. I wanted to do it myself.
There’s a downside to that approach.
Why “Alone” Doesn’t Work
I don’t want to be dependent; I want to be independent.
I want to do it all by myself.
We weren’t made for independence.
We’re made for interdependence.
We don’t realize that we need each other until the storm hits. That’s when we discover that we don’t have taproots.
If we’re all alone, we can’t stand up to the pressure.
The ability to handle life well doesn’t happen when we’re isolated; it happens when we’re interconnected.
We’re made to hold hands through life.
What’s one way you’ll become interdependent with someone? Share in the comments below.
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