Pick up a stick. Break it in half. Do you have two halves of a stick or do you have two sticks?
Perhaps it’s about perception. Even if you choose the path of contrariness and insist on calling it half a stick I ask you to put the halves down and step away from them. Ask the next person that comes by what those things are. You know what the answer will be.
A couple of sticks.
It is only your knowledge that you broke the original stick that lets you entertain the idea of there being half of anything. Even if you tell that person that it used to be a bigger stick, but you broke it in half, they’re almost certainly going to continue thinking of it now as two sticks.
Breaking the stick is both an act of destruction and an act of creation. The breaking of the stick does not destroy it. Instead it creates a new nature for the stick to inhabit. It may be reduced in size but it is increased in number. Its very stickness is still intact. Either resulting stick is as much a stick as the larger progenitor stick had been. Smaller perhaps, but sticks just the same.
Life is like that.
I am being constantly broken and reduced by the world. The cracks in my heart, the fractures in my psyche. The next person that comes along into my life just assumes I’m a whole person. More than that, I have to be a whole person. Even if, in truth, I’m just a small part of a stick that has been carried far from its branch and broken repeatedly over the knee of life.
When you look at me you don’t see the original tree that I grew from. You just see the stick. You might notice the fraying strips of me at the ends, but how they happened is irrelevant to you. You do not care.
So I must be the whole thing, in and of itself. Not a part of the tree I once was. Not half a stick. A mere stick masquerading as the whole of the thing.
Because I tell you there’s no such thing as half a stick.
You too must be the whole stick. If you are broken, you still must be the whole stick for the next person that comes to you. Broken though you are, you must be enough of a stick to be useful.
Otherwise you’re only kindling for their fire.
Can we change this? I think so, yes. If we stop merely using each other, treating each other as only resources to be depleted. We yoke each other to our egos (popularity) and demand servitude (what have you done for me lately?). So many of us think we are above such behavior but mostly that is self-delusion. We lack the mindfulness for such introspection. We conform to patterns of behavior we don’t even notice because we never take the time to stop and look at them. We make the same mistakes over and over, convinced of our own righteousness and any challenge to that world view is met with hostility.
We do not suffer criticism lightly.
We lack the humility to be wrong. About the world, about ourselves, about anything. We are unwilling to admit that we are not the mighty oak. That we are not the whole.
But we are only sticks. Sticks make branches, branches make logs, logs make the tree. Only in togetherness can we repair the breaks in each other and ourselves.
Through unity the tree is formed.
Despite our perceptions, there is only the tree and not, indeed, half a stick.