Thursday, June 18, 2015

Whale Fall

When a whale dies, after the great beast’s mammoth frame has slipped beneath the waves and settled on the ocean floor, from its lifeless frame a universe of organisms are born and nurtured. The decaying form gifts new life to scores of creatures, to wandering scavengers, to the ocean floor on which it lands. Dozens of species have been discovered which exist only on these whale falls settled on the bottom of the world, some living off one body for ninety years. Something as distasteful as the decaying corpse of a whale, means life to thousands of God’s creatures. Sometimes what seems worthless can be the greatest blessing. It was a pill; a collection of various chemicals crushed up and stirred together. The component parts of the pill have little value on their own, elements and compounds found all around us in the air and the soil, plastic and paper. But together in the correct amounts and forms they can ease pain, cure illness, save lives. Just a little pill made from the ordinary things of our world can change a life for the better. Sometimes what seems the tiniest of things can be the greatest blessing. What will matter, what will change the way things are does not come with a sign. What will touch a life, what will build up the broken, heal the wounds, can be hard to see before its work is done. Tonight the food we serve may just be food, or it may be hope. The kind word we offer may just be conversation, or it could make all the difference. We cannot know ahead of time what will matter and what will simply pass away, but what we can do is offer what we have and who we are. At times it may not feel like much, in the face of death and illness, but it can matter. If the decaying corpse of a whale can provide life for millions of organism for a century, surely if a few chemicals crushed up and encapsulated together can ease pain, surely we have something to offer. Sometimes what seems so humble, so inadequate, can be the greatest blessing.
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Thursday, June 11, 2015


I have to rush to the keyboard before if fades away. Type furiously before the last traces drift off into the ether and travel to a new place, settle in another home. Only a hint remains still clinging to the fibers of a dirty shirt, a few strands of hair. The scent of birth has flooded my world as it has flooded all others, but the tide will inevitably go out again. There is a smell to birth, not the new baby smell of Hallmark cards and nostalgic parents’ tears, but something more visceral, more complicated, more profound. The first time each of our virgin lungs sucked in the air with all the sweet and poison scents it is laced with, we smelled it. At the birth of our children it once again fills our lungs. It is the first incense filling the temple. The scent of birth carries to the divine throne room visceral prayers of hope and a dirge for pain yet unfelt; beautiful and terrible all at once. The smell of new birth is pain. A mother’s sweat and labor, a father’s worry, an infant’s fear. It is pain yet unfelt, failure and loss, heartaches and illness, eventually death. Inevitable. It is joy unbound, all things new, pure potential. An olfactory unending, perfectly recognizable and infinitely strange. It is the aroma of a full manger and an empty tomb; different from all other scents and yet containing the cosmos. In the scent of life, pain, and hurt, love and joy twist together rising into the atmosphere. It is all things, but different from each. On final examination it is, perhaps the only unequivocally good thing in the world. I may never smell the scent of birth again, and if I don’t, well I have had enough, and that is fine. Thank you God, and love, that I smelled it today.