Roots: a powerful analogy from the plant world

We first think – who are you born of? Your seed line, your ancestors. It’s family, history, it’s also class and place. Culture, food, language. It might be faith. For some these roots mean great pride, comfort and inspiration, but for others it can be a source of shame, disturbance and trauma.

Roots can also be put down in a chosen place, by those who move and migrate. Roots after routes.

Another form of roots are our lineage. Teachers, political influences. Maybe a scene you were part of. It might be a gym, a yoga tradition or a martial arts school.

How far back do you want to go?

We have more roots. We’re homo sapiens, descended from an older species, homo erectus. Humans evolved out of the mammal family, which split from the invertebrate group – animals with backbones. They descended from creatures in the sea, and before they were creatures, they were clusters of cells. All of us are recycled chemicals and atoms, that were something else before we were us. Some scientists think Earth’s water might have come from outer space.

What are roots for?

They ground the plant in the wind.

They help the plant nourish itself.

They interweave with other organisms into a cooperative mat in the soil, communicating for mutual benefit.

Roots are not like foundations, laid and then entombed in the past. They’re not static. Some rot, some get eaten, they don’t all make it. They’re ever-changing.