A Metaphor of Wholeness Blindness


I think that I shall never see; The interconnected wholeness of a tree

 I think of the tree as nature’s metaphoric gift (maybe my version of “the tree of life”). You can’t see the forest for the trees is a well-known metaphor emphasizing that what we see is not all there is. Although this is well-known, most humans act as if they don’t know it. You can’t see the forest because much of it is hidden. You can’t even see the whole tree because much of it is hidden, or because you are paying attention to a particular part of the tree. To summarize what we know metaphorically about what we see:

  • What we pay attention to is what we see (the auto-pilot metaphor)
  • What we don’t pay attention to is what we don’t see (the six blind men metaphor)
  • What is hidden is what we can’t see (the ice berg metaphor)

I know this and probably most of you know this. But how often do we assume that what we see is all there is? Or we believe we can ignore what we don’t see (don’t pay attention to it). We don’t see the roots of a tree and probably don’t even think of them, yet the roots of a tree are often as expansive as the parts we see and they are an extremely important part of the trees well-being. In a forest, in fact, the roots of all trees are interconnected and form a dense underground network of relationships in which there are no boundaries between individual trees. We don’t see or think of this wholeness.

Yet this is not all of the hidden wholeness. Other parts of this interconnected system, which we don’t always see or even imagine, are the birds, bees, animals, insects, flora, and other interrelated living things that affect the well-being of the tree – and whose well-being is affected by the tree. And you are usually not aware of and therefore, don’t pay attention to, the past history of experiences (fires, storms, human interventions, disease, etc.) of this tree or forest you are observing or imagining. All of this describes our wholeness blindness.

I have written of this often and so have others. My point in this blog is to suggest that readers think of the tree as nature’s metaphoric gift. And then use it as a visual mental tool for enhancing their personal perceptions. When I am trying to understand something I see, I will imagine looking at a tree to review how I see, don’t see and can’t see the tree. “Remember H B, there is an awesome, vast interconnected, invisible wholeness of a tree.” This hopefully reminds me that there is an interconnected wholeness of everything I see. I can carry this metaphoric tree in my mental tool kit, ready to be employed while observing other parts of my world. I encourage others to do this, although I don’t always succeed.


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3 Responses to THE TREE

  1. Eugene Unger says:

    Trees in Tennessee are turning to autumn gold ! Our roots have been interconnected for a long time my friend. Alls well here. How is Yosemite? G

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Beth Lyon says:

    Hi HB,
    However, it made me realize you might not have heard that Barbara had a stroke on Oct. 6th while she was visiting friends in New Mexico. She was taken to a hospital in El Paso and treated there for almost two weeks before being transferred to Manor Care in Sunnyvale. Her niece Barbara has been with her for the whole time, but is going home to Yakima today and will return in a week or so. She is paralyzed on the left side, but can see and hear and understand and talk to people. She can’t swallow so has a feeding tube. Everyone’s worst nightmare! She is having speech, physical and occupational therapy and is making progress. Would you like to be put on the list of close friends who can visit? I will put you on my list for occasional updates.

  3. betsy collard says:

    I love this one. Such a good metaphor for explaining!


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