Peter Wohlleben, a 51-year-old German forest ranger, calls his book The Hidden Life of Trees… Discoveries from a secret world. Wohlleben says that trees are social beings and “talk” to each other. They can count, learn and remember. They can nurse sick neighbours and can keep alive the stumps of trees long felled, by feeding the stumps a sugar solution through the network of their roots. They warn of danger by sending electric impulses through a fungal network that he calls the “Wood Wide Web”.
An early interest in forests drove him to be a trained forest ranger. Sensitive to the natural order of things, Wohlleben’s alert observation has guided his study and discoveries. His experience and experiments seem to have lent him a unique insight into the life of trees.
While the book is in German and is in the process of being translated into several international languages, Wohlleben touches upon a significant aspect of our world—the weave.
An interconnected order
The understanding that the world order, in many aspects, is a web—an interconnected weave of things and energies—isn’t a new concept. Communities that have been rooted to the earth in their way of life are aware of how deeply one event, occurrence or intrusion, can have profound consequences on the weave of this overarching web.
In the 1880s, a speech attributed to a Red Indian chief was published in the Seattle Sunday Star, in the US. The speech was apparently given when the recently-appointed governor of the province was presumably looking to buy native land.
“How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land?” the chief apparently asked. “The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath—the beast, the tree, the man.... This we know—the Earth does not belong to man—man belongs to the Earth…. Like the blood which unites one family, all things are connected.”
Through warm reason and inclusive intelligence, Chief Seattle, as he came to be known, apparently spoke one of nature’s most profound truths. “Whatever befalls the Earth,” he said, “befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life—he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
In the body
It seems that the overarching principle of our world is a web, reflected not just as a whole, but in its parts as well, as in the network of trees, communicating with each other.
The human body is a marvel in how intricately balanced and connected every system is—nervous, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive to name a few—within each system’s own functioning, as well as woven together.
Similarly, the brain. Even as we identify various sections of the brain and what they might do, it seems to work as a weave of electrical impulses, merging data from instinct, memory, analysis and insight together in split seconds.
Our genetic code could be such, too—a weave of impulses switching genes on and off in tandem to form an intricate web as the umbrella mechanism of how it works. This understanding, if indeed it is true, could help us in our quest to identify what causes diseases and disorders. Our approach would change. We needn’t necessarily end our search at individual genes and intrude in a hurry. It would help to know and respect the weave of the web.