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Worship the Power Behind

How to Observe the Disconcerting in the World of Wildlife

September 23, 2021 by

A year ago I was walking in Fort Tryon Park on the edge of New York City when I heard an ungodly commotion around the corner. Taking a detour to investigate, I found to my surprise that a vicious grey rat had a large iridescent pigeon by the throat. Owing to its powerful wingbeats (and perhaps my presence) the pigeon escaped, and the rat scurried away into the ivy.

Now you could say that this – two invasive species on the edge of a city – isn’t really nature, and you would have a point; but still the fact remains, nature can be ugly. Nature needs to be respected, but not taken as our role model. Nature and wilderness need to be appreciated far, far more than they are, but shouldn’t actually be worshipped.

HawkEmbed Red-tailed Hawk with Squirrel. Photo by Nicholas Clement.

It appears that we too often imitate the natural world in all the wrong ways: the rat symbolizes cut-throat capitalism that too many of us admire, the pigeon is the hapless consumer and the exploited worker. We need to learn to absorb the positives – the freedom of nature, its amazing variety and vitality, its marvelous interconnectedness and so on.

To me, a deep love of nature and time spent therein are telltale signs of a truly converted man. Those who throw themselves into bird walks, flower walks, and mountain hikes and simply enjoy the whole thing unabashedly have always impressed me. Deep down, I think they really worship the Creator, not the creation, but don’t talk a lot about it.

From Isaiah to Shakespeare and beyond, writers and prophets have invoked the realities of farm and wilderness to teach us basic values and bring healing laughter. Good literature and wisdom will always be informed by experiences of the natural world, but the best wisdom will always come from those whose foundation is something other than the actual laws of the wild. Grizzly bears often kill other grizzlies when they feel their hunting grounds encroached upon. Predators often take quite a while to kill their prey. It is still far better than much of human violence – the drone assassination of someone who might be a terrorist is far more cold-blooded than anything nature incurs – yet to appreciate this wonderful universe, we must not worship it, but the Power of love behind it. As Jimmy Hendrix said, “when the love of power is replaced by the power of love, we will have peace.”

The shocking things we observe in nature need not discourage us; animals and plants are bound to be imperfect, and we can keep our sense of humor alive by observing them. Fortunately we do have a God who is perfect and whom we can praise unendingly. So we have a double challenge: rediscovering our sense of wonder in the world around us, and remembering to anchor ourselves in someone eternal and all-forgiving. This will help us keep our sense of humor about ourselves and each other as well, and steady us when the currents of life try to knock us backward. Opposition will buffet us, and our belief in an all-powerful and all-loving Creator can keep us on the path towards a destiny that is bursting with hope and joy. Life needs purpose and a goal, and part of that should be to take care of and soak up this wonderful universe, human and otherwise. To say that we love God and then trash his living world makes no sense, but it also makes no sense to worship this marvelous universe instead of the Creator behind it.

In the wilderness only the strong survive, and that is beautiful in its own way. For us humans there is a very different scale of measure: we are called to love and treasure every human being as ourselves. The more we love Love, the more we love his world around us; and in learning about it, we will spend less time on fruitless arguments and warmongering.

So next time you see something disconcerting in the world of wildlife, respect it, but don’t feel obliged to imitate it. There’s enough ratfinks in this world already.

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About the author

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer is a free-thinking Anabaptist, would-be poet who lives at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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