This is the week of the term when my science education students listen to a Radiolab podcast titled “From Tree to Shining Tree.” I tell them it’s utterly fascinating and they always unanimously agree after giving it the hour it takes to listen to it. It’s about how the trees in a forest are interconnected, communicate, and share resources through the “wood-wide web” made up of fungus acting as the conduit between the trees in a forest. Seriously it will blow your mind and get you thinking differently about interconnectedness, not just about trees but other connections. Which leads me to…
I’m thinking about this from the other direction—disconnection. When I am deep in my thinking about this topic from the ecological perspective, I think interconnectedness. When I think about it from the human perspective I think “disconnection.”
We have a need to belong, not only to social groups, spiritual groups, families, partners, but also to our place, our geography. Toko-Pa Turner (2017) eloquently states early in her book Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home with this statement:
To this world we belong. To this moment, in this place where you already stand, something greater has ushered you. To the momentum of a long line of survivors you are bound. From their good deaths, succeeded by new lives, and to the incidents of love that seeded them, your story has been woven. With the wild jubilation of nature, you are in correspondence. By every season’s conditions, and by the invisible holy inclination, your life has been shown. And yet you may feel as so many of us do, the ache of a life orphaned from belonging. (p. 14)
I see our interconnection as rooted in our ecology, not only in the place where we live, but in the place where we (and our “people” however you might define that) comes from. Our place and ecosystems impact our genetics, so yes, it’s deep in our “bones” and part of our biological inheritance. And let’s be honest, most of us are profoundly disconnected from those ecological systems and cycles.
Out of this, then, where does disconnection impact us in our “human” world? Of course, I can see the impact of disconnection in domestic politics, geopolitical events (i.e. Ukraine) and so on. Those things are important and while they may seem distant, do affect us in our daily lives, and it seems the past few years those have had a greater impact then on our daily lives and how we interact and relate with one another on personal levels—at work, with friends and acquaintances, and with family. How are you doing on those fronts?
I freely admit I don’t have an answer for you here, except to say that I think it requires reflection—reflection on our own actions and interactions with those around us, but it also then requires working to have empathy. Imagine how we might approach personal relationships with children if we had better empathy for a child’s struggle with sexual or gender identity. Whether you as a parent “get it” or not is irrelevant if it causes a disconnection with someone who deserves your unconditional love and grace. Imagine how it might help political conversations if you could empathize with the marginalization and disconnection from economic and political power many feel. How about empathy for political refugees simply trying to survive?
What’s your means of reflection and building empathy? No surprise here, for me it’s through writing—both this kind of writing, but also music. So, I read a lot of non-fiction and listen to a lot of music. One (pun intended) of my favorites is U2 because I appreciate the melody writing of the band and the lyric writing of Bono. Arguably their best song is “One.” I was drawn back to this song this week as it’s about disconnection and fractured relationships (I think).
He begins with questions:
Is it getting better
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you, now
You got someone to blame?
Do you find yourself doing this? Does it help?
You say one love, one life,
When it’s one need in the night.
One love, we get to share it
Leaves you baby, if you don’t care for it
What relationships have you not cared for of late?
Later in the song, he sings:
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other
Who carries you? Who have you carried at times during the past few years?
And then he sings about betrayal and pain:
You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl
And I can’t be holding on to what you got
When all you got is hurt
Let’s flip this. Who have you asked to crawl back to you and then only offered hurt, pain, scorn, instead of redemption and grace?
And then he concludes with hope:
One love, one blood
One life, you got to do what you should
One life with each other
One life, but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other
You didn’t think I’d let you out of here without sharing my humble attempt at this song. Being a baritone, I obviously have to bring it down bring it down almost an entire octave, but generally I think I captured the spirit of the song.