First: Did you know that the great sequoia trees in California, known to grow to nearly 300 feet tall and have a circumference of 100 feet or more, have roots that only go as deep as three feet or so into the ground?
Imagine this: a tree towering nearly three stories high, supported by roots less than three feet deep. And they endure, having the capacity to live for more than 2,000 years. How is this even possible? Here’s one way how: they spread their roots wide, not deep. And in groves of multiple sequoias, they don’t just spread them wide, they intertwine them with each other. And in that intertwining of roots, they aren’t competing with each other, they are actually sharing with each other—sharing the natural resources of the earth that will help them survive, while also creating the strength underground they need to grow high into the sky.
A recent article in the New York Times called “Sorry, Einstein. Quantum Study Suggests ‘Spooky Action’ is Real,” highlighted the work of scientists from the Netherlands who are demonstrating that particles, if they are ever ‘entangled,’ will influence each other’s behavior forever afterward no matter how far apart they are. (At least, I think that is what it meant.)
So, here we have one of the largest species on earth, the sequoia tree, standing tall and fierce and independent and viewing the world from 300 feet, all while playing “footsie” with its fellow sequoia. They are literally holding onto each other for dear life.
And then we have the smallest bits of matter: one particle intuiting the actions of the fellow particle it was previously entangled with, even when that fellow particle has “left home.”
So, I love the song “Renegades” by the X Ambassadors (who cares that they wrote it for a commercial).
The lyrics I find myself drawn to the most are these: “Long live the pioneers, rebels, and mutineers. Go forth and have no fear. Come close and lend an ear.” Thinking about the sequoias and the particles and quantum mechanics and life and the interconnected nature of everything, just everything, I can’t help but think about the powerful duality in both going forth and having no fear AND coming close and lending an ear. How can I be independent while also remaining connected to those around me? How can I lean in for support from others while maintaining my own sense of self? How can I be a pioneer or a rebel while also staying close to loved ones?
I think the answer is: how can I not? If I want to grow tall or go far, I must first reach wide, building a strong support network on which to hold tight.
For maximum independence, i also need maximum connection.
And also this: once we’ve “collided”… once your world and mine have come together, have entangled in some way, you will forever be a part of the makeup of me. You will have influenced or shaped me, and I’ll likely never forget.
So whether you feel like the mightiest of sequoias or the tiniest of particles, remember this: we are all interconnected. As John Muir, who worked to preserve the sequoia and so much more, said: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
How can you appreciate your interconnectedness today… and how can you help your students appreciate theirs?
For breakfast, I had a homemade smoothie with spinach and apple and frozen blueberries and almond milk and honey. And I’m not even kidding.
Author Profile: @erikap