Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Forest and the Trees

How strange it is that the human brain has, essentially, no limits, while being held captive by a physical body that does. We live our entire life within those confines. We are, physically, as separate from others of our species as are the individual trees in a forest. We have only our own mind to interpret and make sense of the world around us, and who we are is the compilation of our individual perceptions and experiences. 

It's fascinating how well we somehow manage to interrelate with others given we have nothing but ourselves and our own experiences to go by. As I observe the world around me and the people who pass through my range of vision in the course of an average day, I am frequently struck by what interesting lives they lead and by what I see as the dullness of my own.

Not being able to see the forest for the trees is one of many human phenomena to which we pay very little attention. The closer we are to something, the more narrow our focus, and we basically see only what is directly in front of us. It's all a matter of perspective and as with so many things, perspective requires a stepping back, which is easy enough to do for external can see the forest if you stand back far enough from the individual trees...but it is physically impossible for us to step back from ourselves, and extremely difficult to do so mentally and emotionally.

We look at others' lives with a perspective they cannot have themselves, just as they can look at us in the same way. But even so, by and large we observe only the exterior surfaces...a very truncated (no pun intended) version. I look at others and see what they do and what they have accomplished, and how they relate to other people, and because I only see the surface, as it were, my own life often pales by comparison to theirs. I am not privy to their inner problems, insecurities, worries, fears, or concerns. And because I can't see them, I can't fully understand or appreciate them. 

Since we are within ourselves every nanosecond, 24 hours a day, it's hardly surprising that our own lives can easily appear to be dull or boring. I write books. That's what I do and who I am. Writing is my norm. Since whatever talents/advantages I may have are just a part of me, I see my life as not particularly interesting when compared to the lives of others.

When I do manage to step back from the individual trees that make up the forest of my life, I can see how different each of them is, and how insignificant my own "tree" appears. Few of us allow ourselves credit for our own uniqueness. How many people have flown solo through the tops of huge, whipped-cream clouds? How many people have--or take--the chance to go off to Europe by themselves for a month? How many people have written more than 20 books? I have, but it's just part of me and therefore, to me, nothing special.

Of course, other people have flown solo through clouds, or had wonderful adventures, or written many books...but none in exactly the same combination.

Each person's forest is unique. There is no universal blueprint for a forest any more than there is a universal blueprint for all human beings other than those physical attributes with which most of us are born. Visually, we all pretty much resemble one another, just as visually, trees all resemble each other. But it is our experiences, our emotions, and a million other invisible factors which come together to make each of us uniquely ourselves, our "tree" different than every other tree in the forest.

And my point? That while human nature may dictate that we assume that we are somehow less interesting, less worthy of attention than others, that assumption is wrong and we should celebrate our uniqueness far more than we do. Each of us may be only one tree in the forest, but that tree is far more special than we give it credit for.

I love forests.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

Can you imagine, if we were all alike, trying to play a game of chess with yourself?

I do appreciate the variety in life. It's the bacteria and fungal infections I'm not fond of. I believe we call those politicians.

And if we all wrote mysteries? Or comedies? Naa. I like who you are and that nobody else is like you. And I like who I am. The world isn't ready for two of me.