As a child, I would hold an apple seed in the palm of my hand and contemplate, really contemplate, how that tiny little seed could become the monstrosity of a fully-grown tree.
How could it be?
How could something so large be contained in something so tiny?
As an adult, I can see the subtle lie in the truth:
the tree is not actually contained in the seed.
I used to teach environmental education to middle-school students.
We had an activity in which students would get to be a young tree that would be placed in a section of the forest.
Some “trees” were placed in direct sunlight; others in a shady forest. Some trees had access to a lot of water; others in locations (e.g., the slope of a hill) without much water. Lastly, some trees were placed in mineral-rich soil; others in soil that had lost much of its topsoil.
Based on these factors, some trees grew big and strong, while others did not.
I now see the ridiculous side of the idea that the tree is contained in the seed because I can now see what I never saw before: all the resources that go into that seed becoming a thriving tree.
SO MANY RESOURCES!
Can a tree defy the odds, as it were, and become a thriving tree, even if it were “born” on a slope, in the shade, in mineral-depleted soil?
(Pshhh. Can a rose grow from concrete?)
Of course. It happens.
But for every one that makes it, many more do not.
Is it the tree’s fault, however, if it was unable to grow to be big and strong in those sub-par conditions?
You can see where I’m going here.
To blame the tree planted on a slope for not becoming as big as a tree down by the river is ludicrous. Yet, we blame people who grew up in poor conditions all the time.
And aren’t humans kind of like trees?
Don’t we also need a variety of resources to grow “big and strong?”
Things like proper nutrition, basic sanitation, access to clean water, socioeconomic status, social mobility, family stability, access to education and healthcare.
I believe this speaks directly to the political situation of our time, including healthcare and the idea of privilege.
Just as no seed becomes a tree on its own, no human does, either.
What kind of soil did you grow up in?