Monday, September 14, 2009


I had to go on a business trip to Massachusetts. As I drove thru the Catskills and Berkshires I admired the scenery as the colors were on the cusp of changing. It always amazed me that some small, unassuming branch would be the first to change. It seemed to me that these branches were on smaller, weaker trees. I found it comforting that nature would favor the weaker trees by letting them grab the glory of changing color first.

But why is this a comforting thought?

Nature is not fair. Nor does it have favorites. Nor is it predictable.

Why would the changing color give me comfort?

People look for fairness. We impose rules to make sure that things are predictable. How many times do you get mad when someone else got a bigger piece of cake than you did, or that the guy in front of you did not get the speeding ticket, or that the person in the cubicle next to you gets the same pay even though they don’t work as hard or well as you? We make rules to make the world fair – yet nature is not fair.

Nature does not make rules. There is no arbitration in nature. Maple trees don’t get to petition some higher court if they can’t get as much water as a willow. There is no recourse for sea turtle if their eggs are disturbed. No committee determines which of the weakest gazelle should become the food for the wolf pack.

As I drove along pondering this issue, I did not at first understand why the changing colors made me feel good. Nature is not fair. Yet, we strive for fairness, but it is an unachievable goal. No matter how many rules we make, there is always something about the world that the rules don’t fit. Maybe your child could read and write their name at 3 years, could time their shoes and tell time at 4, and knew how to add all the numbers up to 20. Yet if your little boy or girl was born 1 month to late, they have to wait 1 more year before they could start school. That doesn’t see fair. The rules are too crisp, too rigid.

We think about the laws of nature. Survival of the fittest. Only the biggest, the strongest, the fastest will survive. Yet nature is unpredictable. Sometimes a smaller buck gets his chance at the does when the bigger bucks are locking horns. Sometime the smallest seed can find its way into a crack in the sidewalk and sprout. Maybe the weaker tree prepares for winter by putting on its falls colors early. In doing so, it improves its chance of survival. There is balance. No matter what the rules are, there is a chance that the unexpected will get through. It is not in the rules that the chances lay, but in the variation.

This is where the hope is.

This is where I take comfort.

This is what I see in the first colors of fall.


~ RM said...

You are so amazing and thoughtful. I love you, Dad. Happy Fall~

Uncle Tractor said...

Thanks. You are the one who inspired me.