Have you ever forgotten something – a name, a place, an event – and struggled to remember, finally giving up, only to have an “ah ah” moment some time later, suddenly recalling what evaded your recollection, maybe in the shower, or driving, or day dreaming by the window, watching the rain?
I wonder. I wonder if life is like that, if we live in a spell of forgetting, tickled by a vague sense of something just beyond our conscious awareness, something important but elusive? What is it we might have forgotten? It must be important if it intrudes so often, perhaps as often for you as it does for me and has done all my life, this sense that I’m on the very edge of super important, if only I could remember…
The English language is fascinating. Many words simultaneously have very different meanings and some only unfold their deeper significance when we take them apart. For instance, that word “remember.” Remember: re-member.
This suggests an idea: what if we are striving to recall not a thing but an experience we once had but lost, an experience we our hearts ache to regain, bubbling just under the surface of our lives: the experience of belonging? This makes sense; humanity is afflicted with an escalating epidemic of loneliness, even huddled together in cities where millions of us live in communal isolation.
According to a study reported here on CNN, “The suicide rate in the United States continues to climb, with a rate in 2017 that was 33% higher than in 1999, new research finds… The report noted that America's suicide rates are at the highest level since World War II. Those who identify as American Indian or Alaska Natives had the highest increase among all race and ethnicity groups, according to the research.”
There’s an important clue in those statistics: Indigenous people are at the greatest risk. They have lost their communities, their identity, and certainly their homeland. I wonder, have we all lost that? And what is it exactly, that we have lost?
In researching for one of my recent books I learned that the natural world is totally connected and that all species are engaged in a constant conversation. They all belong together in the vast community of life, every “individual” – regardless of the differences between species – members in the web of life, where threads of connection between them transfer information back and forth, 24/7.
From BigThink, “… Indications of “Earth’s natural internet” go back to the 19th century, beginning with German biologist Albert Bernard Frank. He is the first to discover a symbiotic relationship between fungal colonies and the roots of plants. Frank created the term "mycorrhiza" to describe this symbiosis. Today we know that approximately 90% of all land-based plants are connected through what is called the mycorrhizal network… Some researchers say the trees of the forest and the mushrooms we find growing next to them are so interconnected, that it is hard for them to see trees as individual entities any longer.”
I wonder if trees identify themselves as separate? Perhaps this concept is a purely human phenomenon, the idea and experience of a distinct identity, disconnected from “others.” If so, it’s not serving us well and it’s certainly not helpful to nature. Humans act like wreaking balls in the natural world, slaughtering the splendor of a forest grove to build a shopping mall that sells trivial junk, soon converted to scrap heaps that further disrupt the ecosystem.
Back to remembering, or – now that we understand a deeper meaning of the word – “re-membering.” How can we do this?
Imagine you’re a tree. You have roots. They reach deep into the earth, holding you upright and drawing nutrients from the dark to nurture your growth. You have branches and leaves. They stretch and flutter, swaying and dancing in the sun and wind and rain.
Your branches reach for the heavens, your roots burrow into the earth. You stand, a living symbol of the connection between heaven and earth, also connected in the family of life where you utterly belong, without the need to earn your place. You are under no obligations … except to be yourself.
How does that feel?
In this moment, as you read and imagine, how does that feel? Are you re-membering? Take a moment, pause, close your eyes, breathe, and feel your place in the community of life. You have always belonged here and you always will. We all belong… we just forgot.
The connectivity we have manufactured with the internet, wireless networks, social media … is a technological marvel yet it pales compared to the system already operative throughout the natural world. We could have joined that conversation, and we still can.
Find your tree. Develop a relationship with one tree. Or, maybe, a house plant. Take what you have read here and make this change in your life, with one simple new habit: consciously being with some other species every day.
That simple act could open the door to a vast world and initiate you back into the community of life where we all belong.
It’s never too late to re-member.