What Humans Can Learn From Trees

As we close our six-month deep focus on defunding the police and the eight-week Praxis Circles to understand this call, we are publishing reflections from PPFers on what they’ve learned through this process. This one comes from Praxis Circle member Debbie Blane, a retired PC(USA) pastor and mission co-worker currently living in the greater Seattle area.

What Humans Can Learn From Trees

What I learned from the Praxis Circle that I attended with a group of wonderful people is how important a sense of community is with one’s neighbors, friends, elected officials, and everyone else who makes up our daily lives.

If there is a sense of community and a sense of well-being then it seems to be less likely that the police will need to be used for life and death situations or for domestic violence or for calls that ultimately end in terrible deaths for the people like George Floyd.

I have been listening lately to TED talks about the life of trees. I am realizing that, for me, what I am learning about trees is a metaphor for what humanity needs in order to move away from depending on a professional police force to keep our lives in order.

I did not know, but do now, that trees exist in community. Their community is under the ground, where for the most part we humans cannot see it. It is in their roots! Their roots that support the trees and keep them upright go way, way deep into the soil. Those roots supply nutrients to the tree itself and serve as a communication center, maybe like an iPhone or computers, to keep in touch with the other trees that are in the neighborhood around the tree.

The trees share information and nutrient and kind of keep each other company; if all of the trees around a particular tree are cut down and disappear sometimes the remaining tree will fall ill and die. Of loneliness? Of a lack of community?  If humans can reach a point where we can share information, share food, break bread together and keep each other company, then maybe the police will become relevant as those who are the first responders for accidents; coordinating ambulances and EMTs, not breaking up neighborhood disputes.

As far as I can see the policing issue is part of a bigger issue in this country. Racism, fear, hatred, rat race that allows little time for front porch in the swing socializing. We need to find ways to get to know each other and spend time together. I think that many issues would resolve if people got to know each other. Like the trees do.