Life & Death
Posted by: zealoussheep
Sometimes, I am tempted to think that the world, societies, and cultures are caught in a downward spiral toward darkness and destruction. I look around and wonder if my fellow human beings are taking care to cultivate Life in their souls or are they hurtling towards death. On a whim as I began to type this, I pulled up the Patheos Catholic Channel and clicked on one of my favorite bloggers, Elizabeth Scalia, and one of her most recent posts confirmed that my temptation toward this line of thought is not held in isolation.
[We are in] a unique ‘time’ of global crisis: governments failing at every level, everywhere; churches are divided, their freedoms challenged; citizens are distracted, dissatisfied and distrustful, their election mechanisms in doubt; schools are losing sight of the primary mission of education; families are deconstructed and the whole concept ripe for dissolution; respect for human dignity is doled out in qualified measures; there is a lack of privacy; a lack of time to think, to process and to incarnate; a lack of silence… the ugly landscape [is] all around us; the one we have wanted to pretend was neither so vast nor so damaged and fragile.
Let me be clear, in no way do I disagree with The Anchoress. But concurrent to this line of thought, sometimes I carve out for myself silence, privacy and time to think. And I find that in those moments—especially if I’m in a hammock in the backyard—I am overwhelmed by how much LIFE is exploding around me. Untold numbers of crickets chirping, the insects are prolific, trees are taking root and climbing… Since the very beginning life has sprung forth from the earth, and continues even in the harshest conditions. At a much faster rate than the downward death spiral of my thoughts, life is bursting from every crevice.
Perspective is a funny thing.
It took living abroad and studying philosophy to jar my mind out of the doldrums of my previously monotonous life, characterized by the somewhat glazed staring that catches only the biggest action and has lost sight of all the details. Suddenly I was paying attention in great detail to the world around me, and it awakened in me a deeply buried sense of wonder. Since those days, I overwhelm my companions with loud exclamations of joy over the perfect iridescent rainbow of colors that reflects of the wings of insects or the soft bright green burst of brand new pine needles in the spring. I am amazed at creation and creatures.
There are about 950,000 species of insects on earth.
300,000 species of plants.
1.2 million species of invertebrates.
We really have no idea how many species of animals exist on Earth and some 10,000 species of animals are discovered each year. Projections for the total number of species on Earth range from 2 million to 50 million.
Until very recently, our galaxy, the Milky Way was thought to be part of a cluster of 2,000 galaxies in Virgo. Recent research has shown that the Milky Way’s 100 billion stars are actually part of something 100 times bigger: a supercluster of galaxies astronomers have named Laniakea, which means “immense heavens” in Hawaiian. Laniakea is 520 million light-years across and astronomers say the supercluster is as massive as 100 million billion suns.
It is a big, big world out there. And it is full of vibrancy and life.
A couple of years before I was born Mount St. Helen erupted in the most deadly volcanic explosion in U.S. history. The destruction was beyond comprehension and the President said the damaged landscape was more desolate than the surface of the moon. In all, Mount St. Helens released 24 megatons of thermal energy, 7 of which were a direct result of the blast. This is equivalent to 1,600 times the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A devastating death-blow.
More than 30 years have passed since the blast. Peter Frenzen is a scientist who studies the blast zone. He says,
“One of things that we’ve learned here at Mount St. Helens is that things that initially look dead are usually anything but dead. Those things that look messy to our eye are in fact the critical ingredients of the next thriving ecosystem.”
Out of the devastation has come incomprehensible richness and Mt. St. Helen is literally teeming with life.
I think we can learn a lot from the world around us. As far as plants and animals go, we are literally immersed in life in vast and innumerable quantities. The soul of a Christian at baptism is drenched, immersed, inundated with divine life that cannot be compared to the 50 million possible species on earth or the 520 million light years’ wide supercluster of galaxies we live in. We are beyond soaked in life. And when darkness and death seem to crash in on every side, we know that we have the Death-Conquerer, Jesus himself dwelling in our souls. He is able even from the rocks to raise up children. And as centuries of Christianity have shown, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And like Mount St. Helens and the Saints who have gone before, it still remains the case that life blooms in deserts and things that initially look dead are usually anything but dead. Those things that look messy and broken beyond repair to our finite eyes, can in fact be the very thing that tills and nourishes the soil for revival, restoration and renewal in the hearts of men longing for their God.