A lamb in a green pasture is like a kid in a candy shop, or a Friend in bookshop, or a teen at the mall, or a trader at the stock exchange. You’ll see agribusiness associates hectoring the lambs: “You’re so thin! You deserve more! Eat! Eat!” Then all the lambs will gambol around the pastures, nibbling on everything, hither and yon. But my shepherd makes me to lie down.
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to Adam to see what he would name them; and whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.” (Genesis 2:19)
Organelles, cells, organs, organisms, families, cultures, planets – these bodies nest within each other in irregular concentricity, one within the next, each encased by its own semi-permeable boundary. In the jigsaw puzzle of incarnation, all the pieces slip and slide, expand and contract, ignite and extinguish, push, pull, infiltrate, and emerge. There, but for the grace of God, go I.
Activists chant, “Water is life.” Introductory chemistry teachers instruct, “Water is the universal solvent.” Because of water’s exceptional ability to dismember all sorts of materials – carbon-based molecules, metals, salts – as well as its ability to absorb all sorts of gases – paleontologists tend to assume that life on Earth began in a body of water.
Dear Friends: Almost anything can serve as a weapon, even life-giving water. All living creatures on earth have evolved (are evolving) fortifications against attack. Cellular life is fortified by membranes, and human societies are fortified by lines in the sand. Nutrients and attractive ideas gain access through those fortifications. Poisons and slander are rebuffed.
Dear Friends: Our bodies cannot live outside of history, nor can we live outside of history’s cruelty, its “mixing memory and desire.” Rowing our boats with our backs towards the future, we despair at the carnage we watch flowing out from our wakes – oceans choked by our poisons, lives crushed by our bigotry, truth and kindness twisted by our greed. Some bits of beauty bob along, too.
In her autobiography, Life on Two Levels (1978), Quaker dynamo Josephine Duveneck tells of a year when she provided a foster home in Los Altos Hills, CA, to a seven-year-old Jewish boy from Germany, while Hitler was rising to power in Europe. “What a sweet little personality he was . . .
Dear Friends: To be poor in spirit is not the same as to be poor materially or socially. Even so, material wealth and social authority tend to obstruct our view of the long arc of history that bends towards a world of justice and kindness.