Done anything for your great grandchildren lately?

Done anything for your great grandchildren lately?

Unless you’re a member of the Khasi tribe, your answer would probably be like mine–“Uh, not that I can think of…”

The Khasi live on the Himalayas and “enjoy” 500 inches of rain every year, Their home is the wettest place on earth. Worse, those forty feet of rain fall mostly in a six-month monsoon deluge that turns every indentation of the earth into a raging torrent of flood water. The creases and canyons that were riven into those hillsides by evolution get scoured ever deeper by the annual clawing of the waters, to the point that they are utterly impassable for half the year. So, how to keep in touch with neighbors and foodstuffs and medical support across those chasms?

Big sturdy bridges would be nice. But rainforests don’t produce huge timbers, and getting concrete or steel into such remote and roadless locales would be nearly impossible even if anyone could afford to purchase them.

So for centuries the Khasi have demonstrated the wisdom of partnering with Mother Nature. If she gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, in their case, if she gives you trees like the ficus elastica whose roots can actually flourish in the super-humid air of their rainforest, use those roots to make bridges. The Khasi locate ficus elastica on the banks of these chasms and, over many years, tease some of their tender roots across to the other side and braid them into corresponding roots of ficus elastica located over there.

Then wait.

In ten or fifteen years, more roots can be gradually added onto the growing cable of living strands clasping each other from side to side of the chasm. After another twenty or so years–as the builders’ grandchildren are reaching adulthood–perhaps it will bear the weight of a single jockey-sized person who can delicately lay down one or two stalks of bamboo atop the roots for them to entwine and adopt as a structural partner.

Give it all another few more years and eventually the entire mass will be capable of supporting the weight of an adult. After a while, hey, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Khasi who wove the first two roots together can use it to get together any time they want during the monsoon.

Dazzled as I am by the cleverness and patience the Khasi employ in creating these living bridges in partnership with the natural endowments of their homeland, I am completely humbled by the foresight that inspires their work. As I write today, Khasi adults are out weaving yet another ficus elastica bridge. It’s a good bet that none of them will ever set foot upon it. It’s all for their descendants. I remember Fred Rogers once saying, “One of the greatest dignities of humankind is that each successive generation is invested in the welfare of each new generation.”

I’m pretty sure there’s something I might be doing today for the benefit of my own great grandchildren. For it to be worthy of the inspired model set for me by the Khasi grownups weaving bridges today for their great grandchildren to use, it really must reflect their embrace of symbiotic harmony with Mother Nature.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.


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2 Comments

  1. Shannon on September 16, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    What an extraordinary image and metaphor. As they say, “That’ll preach!” I intend to do take it and do just that… thank you for sharing such a powerful reminder in our age when it feels like impatience and urgency work against the slow, steady, long-view that so much justice work demands.

  2. Ali Stevenson on September 17, 2021 at 5:57 pm

    These are the kinds of gifts that give twice: first as an example and again when the ultimate “product” comes to fruition. A powerful model indeed.

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