Monday, February 22, 2016

Thinking With the Mind of God

I took a long walk this morning for the first time since my foot surgery.  Along the way I saw a male and a female bluebird sitting on a tree limb.  Suddenly a mockingbird flew in and hovered above them, chasing them away.  The mocking bird settled on the same limb.  Then, the male blue bird swooped down and chased the mocking bird away and the blue birds perched again on the limb. This war for perching rights on the limb continued for several minutes until I lost interest and walked on.

Further up the street two cats walked cautiously around each other, making strange cat noises, warning each other not to get too close because an attack was imminent.  Two houses up, dogs behind fences barked at the cats.

As I walked I remembered one morning last summer sitting on my patio as humming birds put on a  master class of acrobatic flying while attacking one another for the feeding rights at the feeders in my backyard.

Then I thought of the huge, two inch black and yellow female cicada killer wasp that I had seen in my yard dragging a paralyzed cicada down into its underground lair, where the female would lay eggs inside the cicada.  When the eggs hatched, the larva would use the cicada for food.

A red-tailed hawk hunts its prey frequently in my neighborhood, gliding silently high overhead, then with its powerful eyesight that is eight times sharper than the sharpest human eye, it spots a mouse or a bird or a squirrel or a kitten and swoops down, diving at speeds that can reach 120 miles per hour.

These animal and insect wars go on each day, every day, unseen or unnoticed by us.

And much like the rest of the animal kingdom, we humans have our wars too.  But unlike the birds, the dogs, the cats, or the wasps in my neighborhood, we humans have no excuses.  And this makes our wars much more terrible, and much more senseless.

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam teach that God gave human beings dominion over God's creation; the world and everything in it.  Can we honestly look at the world and say that we are managing it the way God would manage it?

I have to believe that God gave humans dominion over creation because God made us in such a way that we have the ability to rise above our pride, our greed, our lust, our envy, our anger, our laziness, and our gluttony.

The question that we are all asking, is when will we rise above?  When will we stop chasing other birds from the limbs of trees over and over again?  When will we stop barking at cats?  When will we start thinking with the mind of God?




Monday, February 8, 2016

The Unfamiliar Drive

Over the last two years, my wife and I have noticed a brown car driving through our neighborhood several times a day.  A man drives the car slowly, ever so slowly, through the entire length and width of the neighborhood, looking at houses, stopping occasionally, then continuing his casual drive.

Of course, my first thought was that the driver was casing the neighborhood and I considered calling the police.  But before I could do so my wife, Melanie, told me she knew the identity of the mystery driver.

"He used to live in the neighborhood," she said.  "His wife left him, remember."

I remembered.  He had lived just up the street for a short time after his divorce, then moved away.  I wondered why he would drive so regularly through a place that had given him so much pain.

Several weeks later, I knew the answer.  Melanie was walking through the neighborhood, saw the brown car and waved at the driver.  He stopped and they talked.

She told me that he did not remember her and when she asked about his mother, he pulled a sticky note from the dashboard and told her that his mother had died.  "I'm not able to remember things any more,"he said with a smile.

So, now when I see him driving through our neighborhood, or driving through the streets of our small town,  I see him in a different light.

He is not a thief.  He is the victim of a thief; a disease that is robbing him of his memories.  His endless driving is an attempt to look for places that are familiar; to reclaim the people and the places and events that were once his but are now slowly fading away.

One day, maybe one day soon, we will not see him any more. He will have forgotten his old neighborhood.   The brown car will be forever parked.  The robbery will be complete and he will stare blankly at the people in front of him and he will not remember to look at his sticky notes.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Desk and the Key

Years ago, I was wandering through an antique store in an old house on Central Avenue in Charlotte, NC.    I had been searching for an antique desk for my bedroom for a long time and had never quite found the one that was in my mind.  I walked from room to room, browsing and as I entered a new room, I saw the very desk that I had been searching for for so long.

It was delivered to my home that same night.  But there was a slight problem.  My bedroom is upstairs.  The desk is solid oak and heavy.  The two people who delivered it stood staring at the desk and at the stairs.  I never thought the stairs would be an issue. But the deliverers told me they were usually informed about stairs.  So I offered to help them. 

And so, the three of us pushed and shoved and lifted the desk to the top of the stairs.  As we approached the top, I heard one of the delivery men groan.  I thought he had hurt his back, but as we sat the desk down he motioned to me.  "We will never be able to get this desk into your bedroom.  The turn from this hallway into your bedroom is too sharp.  The desk is too large."

Looking at the desk, I had to agree.  I had always imagined the desk in my bedroom and now I was faced with the prospect of having to put it in another place.  But there was not another place in my home that I wanted that particular desk.  It had to go into my bedroom.  So I looked closer at the desk and found that the top could be removed.  By removing the top, we were able to slide the frame (without the drawers) into my bedroom.

As we stood the frame of the desk in place, I noticed something attached to the underside.  It was a magnet.  And on the magnet was a key.  I assumed that the key was used to lock and unlock the drawers.

We reattached the top of the desk to the frame, and I promptly forgot about the hidden key, until several years later, when I was running my hand underneath the frame, and I rediscovered it.  I put the key in the lock in the way it seemed to fit and turned it; first one way then the other.  But the lock did not move.  So I put the key in the lock the way it did not seem to fit.  I turned it the way most locks turn, and the lock did not move. I turned the key in the opposite direction and the lock did not move.  So I put the key back on its magnet and assumed it was a key for another purpose that the former owner had hidden on his desk.

A few more years went by and I rediscovered the key again.  I tried it again, with the same result.  I put the key back in its place and there it stayed until a few weeks ago when I found it again.

I decided to give it one more try.  And I found that if I put the key in the lock in the way it does not seem to fit, pull it out just a hair before turning it, and turn it anti-clockwise, the key locks the drawer.

All this time, I thought of this key as a secret key; or that the key held some secret.  But the secret that I discovered was that I had stopped trying before I had exhausted all methods of inserting and turning the key.

In the middle of my desk sits a rock with an quote inscribed on it.  It says, "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."  The quote is from Albert Einstein.  He is saying that the key to life is to continue our search; to continue our struggle; to be willing to think beyond our boundaries; and to never give up.  Because just around the corner is a most marvelous discovery.