#9 Every Bridge Relies on a Network for the Flexibility and Strength Needed to Carry the Load

We live interconnected lives not just within human societies but within the much larger and richer web of life itself. Civil engineers learned long ago that a massive column or monolithic slab is actually far weaker than a much lighter, more flexible, interconnected network of smaller members because a network allows flexibility when under stress from unpredictable random forces.

Often in our lives, and in the secret lives of bridges, loads and stresses of various sizes come at us in combinations from multiple directions. When we or a bridge tries to rigidly resist these forces we both often fail. As the ancient Taoist teaching says, if we mimic a strong tree when faced with the random forces of rampaging flood waters we will, like the tree, most often be washed away. But if instead, we mimic the grasses and bend flexibly in the face of the torrent we, and the grasses, will most often be unscathed after the flood waters recede.

So the deck of our metaphorical communication bridge, like an engineer's girders and the Taoist's grasses, will be carried by a flexible network. Our bridge's network is well explained rationally by Fritjof Capra's seminal book 'The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems'. Explaining the vital flexibility of the web of life has been the subject of the works of many, if not all, of humanity's great artists, prophets and thinkers down through time, our bridge will try to stand on their shoulders and with their spirits.

One scientist's research, Forestry Prof. Suzanne Simard of UBC, into the role of mycorrhizae and mycorrhizal networks in old growth forests shows how the survival of young trees was greatly enhanced when they were linked into the network of the old trees.and has proven that trees do communicate and share resources like human brains - in networks. Her research provides strong evidence that maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving mycorrhizal links, and that removal of hub trees could unravel the network and compromise regenerative capacity of the forests.

Just as every material bridge relies on the instantaneous, incalculable and unseen distribution of stresses throughout its supporting girder matrix to provide the flexibility and strength necessary so too does the network provided by the web of life, the green matrix, provide us with the flexibility and strength to manage the mental challenge of surviving, perhaps, the greatest test our species has yet faced through the unseen connections that support the span over our environmental communication chasm

A forest isn't just a buncha trees, it's an interconnected network of seen and unseen flora, fauna, minerals, microbes, forces and faeries all pulling together for the common good. We can too.