In the days since my diagnosis, I seem to have become more in tune with the living things that surround me. It has been an unexpected surprise that has made me a little more tender hearted than I used to be. But it has also provided me with some interesting observations, simple slices-of-life that appear out of nowhere to teach me something important.
Two days ago, I decided to tackle some long overdue dusting in my bedroom. I could hear the incessant buzzing of a bee that had managed to get into the house and was bouncing around the transom over the door that leads outside. I opened it a few inches to encourage the bee to fly out to freedom. But it remained stuck as though it couldn’t understand how to accomplish the task. I opened the door wider. The bee, now frustrated, buzzed even louder as it flew against the glass, ultimately, entangling itself in a thin spider web. The more it resisted, the more ensnarled it became. I used a coat hanger to free it from the gossamer threads and then watched in utter amazement as a few minutes later, it was back in the same spot, ensnared in the newly spun web as the spider rappelled down to where it lay. I thought perhaps the bee was suicidal, and then, immediately dismissed the idea as one clouded by my human sensibilities. But soon, it lay lifeless, illuminated by the morning sun.
Yesterday, I noticed that one of the ducks on our pond had a hurt leg. It appeared to be broken as the poor creature limped a few feet before collapsing into the grass. I watched from the front porch, then pulled out the binoculars to get a closer look. Its breathing was rapid and it looked to and fro as though confused and panicked. It was difficult to watch it struggle as I contemplated what I could do to help. I knew that it would be vulnerable to the many predators who live in the woods that surround our house. And then, I spied the big snapping turtle as it broke the surface of the water. It was a pretty safe guess that the duck’s injury came from the turtle, who harbored no ill will toward the duck but was, like the spider, just looking for a meal.
To quote the Lion King, such moments are part of the circle of life.
So who was more deserving to live, the spider or the bee? The duck or the turtle? The question is obviously rhetorical, since there is no answer other than the strongest survive. Perhaps that is true for people, too.
And this has got me thinking a bit about all that nature can teach us.
Animals adapt to their environment Fish swim without ever thinking that they might drown; birds fly without a fear of falling. They don’t spend their days questioning why; they don’t have sleepless nights anticipating what could happen or fretting over a to-do list. No, they simply live close to the earth in the habitat for which they were created. And they accept what life brings to them with each passing day, even if that means struggle or pain or death. In some ways, they are far superior to us.
And yes, one might argue that animals experience no real happiness, no sense of delight and triumph. (My dog is an exception.) Are they able to reach their full potential, to self-actualize and achieve? Can they experience spiritual enlightenment? No, of course not. In that way, man is truly the grander species. But we often sabotage those would-be moments of joy and success by looking for some larger implication, some deeper meaning or motive to even the good times. As we wait for the other shoe to drop, we question and doubt, undermining so much of what we profess to believe in with all of our hearts. Let’s face it, humans mess things up on a regular basis by over-analyzing the intention and consequences of every experience.
Gee. What irony! I suppose that is exactly what I am doing here. Let me see if I can put away my microscope and continue.
This morning, there are otters on our pond, and I wonder if they are the same family that appeared last summer, delighting me with their antics, when I was too sick to do much more than sit and watch and wait. But sadly, the duck is gone, having vanished into the night as though it had been raptured, gone to some unknown place. And I wonder if it is like that for humans that in the blink of an eye, we are carried to our heavenly home where there is no pain or suffering, where joy and love abounds. If that is true, then why do we fret and worry about a tomorrow that none of us are guaranteed? Put that way, it seems like a foolish waste of time, doesn’t it? The old most certainly gives way to the new, which is how it is meant to be. Sometimes, we forget that.
With each day, we are given the opportunity to begin again, to choose how we will spend the twenty-four hours that have been gifted to us. We get to decide if we will engage in destructive dialogue or elect to believe the negative messages the world hands to us. But we also can open our hearts and minds to the possibilities that something special and spectacular might suddenly appear. And I can’t help but wonder what the ripple effect might be if we all made up our minds to do just that, to follow the line of the Beatles song and just let it be. I sure am going to try. Besides, if His eye is on the sparrow, I know He is watching me.