Western Friend logo

Substance and Filler

Published: Feb. 27, 2021


Content means substance; meaning. It also means satisfaction.

If you were a tiny creature, abandoned by the side of a road, you could become an ambassador. Even a teacher. If you were once healthy but suffered an injury, this is another way to become an ambassador. This happens to beavers, porcupines, whales, owls, and even people. The animals cannot go back to live in the wild. The people cannot go back to life before the event that injured them. The animals are in zoos or game parks, examples of themselves and their habitat. The people sometimes become motivational speakers.

Perhaps we don’t have to be injured to be an ambassador. We can be one wherever we are. I was by a yew tree and two women walked by and asked what kind of tree it was. “Pacific yew,” I told them as I stood next to trimmed branches covering the ground. “Where are its cones?”

“It doesn’t have cones, it has berries and they aren’t out yet.” “Oh, thank you, we are trying to learn about trees.”

I knew what the tree was because I know the tree personally. It is an ambassador; it taught me. Now I pass it along.

We need to help each other out. I am trying to be one who bails out the sinking ship rather than one who is sinking it… or sitting by motionless and watching it sink.

Have you ever listened to a wild bird talk and suddenly heard a native language?

I walked under a bird high up in an oak tree and it pronounced a string of very old expressions. To my ear, it spoke an ancient language from the original people who lived here.

I heard it speaking this dialect and recognized it because my own mouth can’t make the same sounds, not because I am not a bird, but because I am not related to the ancient tribe who spoke this way.

I heard similar sounds in an audio exhibit of ancient languages when I was in Canada on vacation. I haven’t heard it again until this bird was in a tree a mile from my house and it remembered the language and spoke it freely and passionately. To this blackbird, one thousand years ago is not a long time. Not long enough to forget this song.

I spoke with a friend today on the phone and we both said we don’t like too much filler but we do love words.

What is filler?

“Most thing are filler,” my friend said.

“In all that content, what’s actually there? Aside from filler?” She said, “in your whole day, it might be mostly filler, then you water your plants, and that could be the actual content for that day.”

We are used to mostly filler, and sometimes it’s comforting.

It’s not all bad. It’s good unless it becomes so stacked up it’s suffocating. Or it trips us and holds us in place. In that case you need to drain some filler and replace with content.

Content says more and takes up less room.

from Mary Ann Petersen, Eugene Friends Meeting (2/26/2021)