Unity is Strength: A Lesson from the Intertwining Roots of the Redwood Tree

“The children of Adam, created of the self-same clay, are members of one body. When one member suffers, all members suffer, likewise.” — Sadi, Muslim poet.

“Withdrawing and distancing from others does not make us stronger. We hurt ourselves, limit that which can nurture us, open ourselves to injuries that can only be survived by connections. Isolationism and xenophobia fuel hatred and blame.” — Joanne Eddy

[Please also view an excellent and inspiring Youtube presentation on the Redwood Tree (3m 40s) which complements this article; video link at bottom of this post — Ed.]

By JOANNE EDDY

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Coast redwoods. Photo: US National Park Service.

Redwood trees have always impressed me. From a seed no bigger in size than a tomato seed, they grow as tall as 35 story buildings. In fact, their height helps them survive in dry seasons as it helps them live on only the moisture they are able to extract from fog. Condensing the mist against their trucks, redwoods create fog drips that cool and roll down grooves in their bark flowing down the length of the tree to the roots that nurture it. Resistant to insects, able to withstand fires and floods, subject to no diseases, they endure for ages with no natural enemies but man.

You probably know all of that, but I recently learned something from a business training model about redwoods that surprised me…and set me to thinking.

SunnyFortuna.com tells us: “You would think that a 350-foot-tall tree would need deep roots, but that’s not the case at all with the Sequoia sempervirens. Redwood tree roots are very shallow, often only five or six feet deep. But they make up for it in width, sometimes extending up to 100 feet from the trunk. They thrive in thick groves, where the roots can intertwine and even fuse together. This gives them tremendous strength against the forces of nature. This way they can withstand high winds and raging floods.”

So, redwoods do not survive alone…ever. They form “tribes” or communities. Sometimes they grow so close to each other they merge at the base into one tree. The first thing they provide each other is strength and support: intertwining roots. Not deep, but wide, living in an embrace of others.

The merged roots also meet their needs for nurture. The entire system relies on their rooted connections.

On the National Park System sequoia page I found out that “The coast redwood environment recycles naturally; because the annual rainfall leaves the soil with few nutrients, the trees rely on each other, living and dead for their vital nutrients.” (nps.gov) As a redwood tree dies, it decays and the nutrients it has absorbed over the ages are released back into the community through the roots, nourishing the other trees. And the community replaces that member by sending a new sprout up from their roots.

It’s no wonder that redwoods have inspired the  latest “organizational culture” model, a new Fish Philosophy, Who Moved My Cheese, Star Thrower, Open Source look at what creates success in corporate management. The sequoia “business” model guarantees enduring success and sustains massive growth….but only if the trees work as a team and support each other. The critical key to survival and growth is  interdependence.

But I think this is a lesson that is applicable not just to business but to our own need for communities, individually and as nations. Like the redwoods, we cannot survive alone. People do need alone time, and space for individualism to be content and personally creative, but there are moments in a life that also needs friends and neighbors and groups of like-minded people. We need others  to help us think past what we can alone, to help us solve life problems, to share their strength in our times of need. I would argue that this redwood kind of inter-reliance is needed for health, individual and collective, for us all to survive and thrive.

Even spiritually, as much as I value meditation time, walks at the ocean alone with “Intimations of Immorality” on my mind, I am refreshed by deep talks with others, friends and family. I need them to challenge my thought and nourish my spirit, and for me, as well, I need the comforting ritual, the remembered songs and prayers, the heart and mind community of a worshipping family of faith to nourish me.

I think when we and our world withdraw our roots…try to restrict them to me and mine, we make an egregious mistake. Withdrawing and distancing from others does not make us stronger. We hurt ourselves, limit that which can nurture us, open ourselves to injuries that can only be survived by connections. Isolationism and xenophobia fuel hatred and blame. They are failed strategies that lead more often to war than to the safety they promise.

In the face of Britain’s exit from the EU, where Populism and promises of renewed national strength spoke to many, I would warn them and those here in the US who echo the same arguments to take a look at what happens when loggers cut down redwoods. Not only are the trees they take killed, but the other redwoods that remain in the tribe often die. Without the missing trees to share water and nutrients, the remaining members becomes less healthy and sometimes cannot even survive.

Our world seems to scream at us that helping others hurts you, and standing alone is better than uniting together. Sometimes, while I do understand the fear of change and of the unknown, and the gut response to forces and politicians that inflame that fear, I wish I could get people to look up and out.

There are resources out there in the world still. They may not be mineral, or oil, as much as wind, sun, and PEOPLE.

America has always been made stronger by being united as states and united with the world. Accepting the gifts of those who came to our shores has added to our resources…even when they were poor when they came, like my grand parents. Just like love, which is not diminished when a new child is born into a family, but grows as it is divided among ever larger numbers, we grow our country by welcoming others. And it is in tough times, we most need to reach out into our tribes and communities, knot our roots into even tighter bonds and stand strong together against the fires that race towards us or the floods that threaten to wash us away.

To me, that is the lesson that rustles in the leaves, it’s the strength we can feel in our roots, it’s a model for living we can learn from the redwoods.

Date posted: January 12, 2019.

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This is a slightly revised version of Joanne Eddy’s original article Intertwining Roots: A Lesson on Community which was published on her blog http://www.joanneeddy.com.

joanne eddyJoanne Eddy, lives in NorthoCarolina. She notes on her blog: “Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace ‘living deliberately’ in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.”

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The quote of Sadi at the top of this post is from His Highness the Aga Khan’s speech delivered on April 18, 2008, in Atlanta, Georgia, at the annual meeting of the International Baccalaureate.

Also view a Youtube video “In Giving, We Receive” that complements Johanne Eddy’s piece. Please click https://youtu.be/GuTZUAIHKbo. We thank Yasmin Alibhoy of Madrid Spain, for bringing this video to our notice. 

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Total Solar eclipse on August 21: One of Nature’s most awe inspiring sights; watch ScienceCast and follow live coverage

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature’s most awe inspiring sights – a total solar eclipse. This path, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s tenuous atmosphere – the corona – can be seen, will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk. NASA will cover the eclipse live from coast to coast, beginning at noon EDT.

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THE ISLAMIC WORLD AND ASTRONOMY

Islamic astronomy became the western world’s powerhouse of scientific research during the 9th and 10th centuries AD, while the Dark Ages engulfed much of the rest of the western world. The works by Ptolemy, Plato, and Aristotle were translated, amplified upon and spread throughout the Muslim world. Al-Khwarazmi developed the first tables trigonometric functions (ca 825 AD) which remained the standard reference well into the modern era. Al-Khwarazmi was known to the west as “Algorizm” and this is, in fact, the origin of the term ‘algorithm’. Al-Khwarazmi’s calculations were good to five places, allowing for unprecedented precision in astronomy and other sciences. At Antioch, Muhammad al-Batani (ca 850 AD) began with Ptolemy’s works and recalculated the precession of the equinoxes, and produced new, more precise astronomical tables. Following a steady series of advances in Islamic trigonometry, observations by Ibn Yunus of lunar and solar eclipses were recorded in Cairo ca 1000 AD. Ibn Yunus is regarded as one of the greatest observational astronomers of his time. The pace of Islamic science and scholarship eventually slowed down in the 11th and 12th centuries. Many great books and great ideas of the Islamic Age lay fallow for hundreds of years until they were finally translated into Latin and fueled the European revolution in thinking and the birth of science as we know it today. [1]

FATIMID ASTRONOMER IBN YUNUS

The Fatimid astronomer Ibn Yunus (950-1009), was one of the greatest astronomers of medieval Islam and the most important astronomer of medieval Egypt. He recorded both the lunar and solar eclipses in Cairo.  As a young man he witnessed the Fatimid conquest of Egypt and the founding of the new city of Cairo in 969. In the period up to the reign of 15th Ismaili Imam and 5th Fatimid Caliph, Mawlana al‐ʿAzīz (975–996), he made astronomical observations that were renewed by Mawlana al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, who succeeded Imam al‐ʿAzīz in 996 at the age of 11. Ibn Yunus wrote a major astronomical handbook called Al-Zij al-Hakimi al-kabir (The Great Hakimi astronomical table) which he dedicated to Imam al-Hakim. Although Ibn Yunus’ handbook was widely used in Islam, and his timekeeping tables survived in use in Cairo into the 19th century, his work only became known in the West less than 200 years ago. [2]

Yunus expressed the solutions in his Zij without mathematical symbols, but Delambre noted in his 1819 translation of the Hakemite tables that two of Ibn Yunus’ methods for determining the time from solar or stellar altitude were equivalent to the trigonometric identity 2cos(a)cos(b) = cos(a+b) +cos(a-b) identified in Johannes Werner’s 16th-century manuscript on conic sections. Now recognized as one of Werner’s formulas, it was essential for the development of prosthaphaeresis and logarithms decades later. [3]

Date posted: August 19, 2017.

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Islamic astronomy and Ibn Yunus sections compiled from the following sources:

[1]. https://science.ksc.nasa.gov/
[2]. Ibn Yunus – McGill University
[3]. Ibn Yunus – Wikipedia