Ping Pong

Life is a conversation. A conversation is two ways. Speak and listen. It is not like classical ballroom dancing where one person leads and the other follows. It’s not bowling its table tennis. Back and forth. It is cooperative and collaborative. Both people contribute. Our first relationship is parent and child. As a child we do a lot of listening (or at least should) but eventually, there is a shift. With maturity, we start adding our own voice to the conversation of life. We have siblings or make friends. We raise our hands in class and answer when called upon. And as that voice strengthens, we bring it back to that original relationship. Our conversation with our parents changes. And we are less “up and down” and more “side-by-side”. A parent’s ultimate job, the prime directive of the species, is to raise an offspring that can survive on their own, leave the nest and make their own pride.

But, relationships are living things. They are organisms as real as an individual person. They lack a corporeal existence and therefore depend much more on the spiritual and the psychological to thrive and evolve. Without a “body” there is no homeostasis, no inborn derivative to heal and restore. Cut your finger and in but a few days, the skin heals. Cut a relationship and the healing is not automatic. Intimacy with others requires attention the way a plant requires water or sunshine for photosynthesis. A relationship cannot be left alone and expected to grow. And it requires all parties to contribute. The absence of part of a relationship means that the whole thing grows funny, if it can grow at all. When one is silent or disengaged or thinks all growth can be managed by the others in the relationship the entire organism is placed in jeopardy. Water cannot replace chloroform. And pouring more and more water ultimately creates more imbalance.

A relationship is balance. Every person in the relationship must participate. Each much accept their role in the harness and pull their plowshare. Each much willingly give and share for the good of all. Even in a toxic ecosystem, things can still grow and thrive. Sometimes it is exactly what is needed. A powerful way to renew and restore a EPA superfund site is to plant new trees. After a blazing forest fire, seed pods open and germinate because of the heat of the fire. Explode the side of a mountain and cover the entire area in volcanic ash and in a decade, you have something whole and beautiful. But don’t blame the water that the plant cannot grow when the problem is a lack of sunlight or craggy soil or lack of micro-nutrients. Only with cooperation can a system under stress still grow and thrive. When outside sources threaten, everyone has to pitch in and fight for their lives.

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