A Thought on Love, Empathy, and Faith

This started out as a post on Facebook, but I’m going to try to expand on it and see what happens…

If we spent more time seeing people as people rather than as the labels we put on them, then a path to real empathy and understanding shows itself. The problem with labels is that we all wear more than one. Yet, when we see a label on someone that we do not agree with, that is the label we give them. Never mind the other labels one might wear that we would approve of or wear ourselves. It is the label that promotes some kind of disagreement or conflict that we freely choose to accept as the one that most aptly describes or define the individual.

Surely we are smarter and more compassionate than that. Surely we all have the ability to see people for who they are rather that what they are. Why would we willingly take such an ability and simplify it? Does it make life easier? Does it help us sleep better at night? Does it bring us closer to our faith, regardless of what that faith may be?

I’m going to address the last question first and see if they will help answer the other three.

Does it bring us closer to our faith, regardless of what that faith may be?

I’m going to place a label on myself just to show how I view the answer I have for this question. I identify as a Christian, and the answer that follows is according to my understanding of Christian faith.

By simplifying an individual that we may not agree with to the label with which we disagree, faith eludes us. We are not told to love the neighbor with whom we most identify. We are told to love our neighbor. It does not matter who that neighbor is. It does not matter what that neighbor does. It does not matter what we think of that neighbor.

One of the most important aspects of love is empathy. In order to love someone, empathy, and the practice of empathy, within the relationship is absolutely paramount. With empathy, one must understand or want to understand the object of their love. With empathy, there may not always be agreement, but there is always an attempt to understand. Without empathy, one cannot find the commonalities one might have with another in order to build a meaningful relationship. Without empathy, it is easier to cast judgment on those with whom we disagree, paste a label on them, and toss their basic humanity aside. Without empathy, we fail to see the person behind the label. We fail to see the person’s wants. We fail to see their needs. We fail to understand them as people, and choose to see them as enemies, if even in the loosest sense of the word. Without empathy, there cannot be trust. Without trust, there cannot be love.

Empathy takes a lot of practice. It can be difficult, but isn’t that the point? Are we not supposed to practice our respective faiths? Are we not supposed to work in order to build a stronger character and make our faiths stronger?

We have an ability to understand. We have an ability to empathize. Some say it is God given. Some say it is an evolution of the mind. Some say it is a combination of the two.

We can also practice apathy. We can choose not to care. We can choose not to understand. In essence, we can choose not to love. Apathy takes no practice, builds no character, and is a weak foundation upon which to build faith.

Which brings us closer to our faith? Which makes life easier? Which helps us sleep better at night? For me, a better understanding makes me more comfortable and helps me trust that I will be okay. That trust helps me sleep at night. That understanding makes my life just a little bit easier.

There is a debate, has been for a long time. Does faith alone provide for salvation, or are good works necessary? Faith, in and of itself, requires work. Faith requires practice, because we, in and of ourselves, will never be perfect. Through practice, we can come closer to perfection, but cannot attain it but through the continued practice of love and of faith.

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Getting Ready…

I’m sitting here and have been staring at my “To-Do List” for my graduate school application.  I have two recommendations down and one to go.  I have taken the GRE.  I have to write my statement of intent to submit with my writing sample, and I have to submit an essay of 500 words on the importance of a graduate school education as it relates to my career goals.  I have two months from tomorrow to get my application submitted for early review.

As far as the statement of intent goes, I don’t really understand the point.  I’d think the intention of most that are going to graduate school is pretty much the same…the desire for more education in a given field, taking a particular interest or focus in a given field, and gaining knowledge, tools, and skills that will make one more marketable, or, simply marketable,  as an employee in a given field.  Do they want to know if I’m a capable writer?  I’m submitting a 25 page senior thesis.  That should give them some idea of my capabilities to write, to make an argument, and support a thesis statement.

Yeah…so, I just don’t get it, but I’m going to do it.  I have to do it.  I’ve written two paragraphs coming to about 125-130 words.  I’m shooting for another 200 words or so, and it’ll be done.

The scholarship essay is optional, but who wants to pass up the opportunity for free money??  So, I’m going to write that, too.  It’ll probably end up being a flowery version of my statement of intent or something like it.  We will see.

I’ve sent an email to the professor under whom I wish to study, and am looking forward to hearing from him soon.  I’ve already begun reading and sifting through bibliographies.  Right now there are 10 books lying around my computer, on my desk, or on my printer that are either bookmarked or are open to pages I’ve been reading.  I’ve got a decent reading list put together already of 17 books, so I’ll just wait and see how it compares to the list he wants to give me when we begin meeting.  Oh, and those 10 books on my desk are not counting the stack of books by my bed that I have been picking through.

I may be crazy, but I’ve missed this.

Getting Excited…

Wow…Two months since my last post.  Let’s look at where I am now…

We’ve moved and gotten settled into our new house.  I studied for, and took, the GRE.  I have a few finishing touches to put on my application for graduate school for the Summer term.  I have met with professors to discuss my plans concerning graduate school and what I am going to do with more education.  I started another trip around the sun.

Yes, I took the GRE.  I took it last week.  I didn’t want to, but I had to.  I had to take it in order to apply to graduate school.  Let me just tell you about that experience.  It was painful.  The months leading up to it were painful.  The days leading up to it were painful.  The whole experience was painful.

See, I get anxious before taking a test…any test, really.  This test, however, was different.  As I read the preparation materials and reviewed math skills that I have not used in nearly twenty years, I realized that there is really no way to fully prepare or study for the GRE.  Sure, time management is key to successfully completing the test, but what it really comes down to is that you either know it, or you don’t, and that does not work too well for me.  If I don’t know it and need to know it, then I NEED to know it.  It’s kind of like an obsession, really.

I remember feeling pretty much the same way when I took the SAT in high school for my college application.  I either knew the material, or I didn’t.  I did a lot more preparation for the GRE.  I bought a prep manual, reviewed math…yes math.  I honed my skills of analyzing arguments and presenting opinions on issues.  I attempted to learn every million dollar word in the English Language.  I did reasonably well, and I don’t really have any complaints, save one…

Standardized testing sucks.

It just…well…sucks.

And here is why…

The education I’m wanting and the kind of work that I want to do requires doing research on a given topic, analyzing and interpreting the research, formulating a thesis based on the analysis, and supporting that thesis with an argument based on the research performed along with knowledge of the topic being argued.  Sure, some mathematic skills may be required when doing research such as knowing percentages or analyzing data and statistics…hell, maybe even dealing with some fractions or long division.  Though when it comes to calculating the circumference of a triangle given only the radius of the square root and knowing that pi equals cake plus milk, there is absolutely no point in the future when I am going to need to know how to do that.

I know, I know…never say never.

I’m saying it, though.  NEVER.  So why did I have to waste energy studying, reviewing, and obsessing over that when I could have used that energy reviewing and obsessing over skills and knowledge that will pertain directly to my chosen educational endeavor?

All in all, I did alright.  I made it through without having an aneurysm.  I finished the sections within the allotted amount of time. I don’t think my pulse rate went above 180 bpm.  So, we’ll chalk up a mark in the success column.

My scores, once they are official, will be submitted to the graduate school’s admissions office and the program to which I am applying.  Two more essays to write and one last recommendation to get, and my application will be done.  That’s pretty exciting.

What’s even more exciting is that, once the new year begins, one of the professors under whom I will be studying is going to start meeting with me weekly to discuss what I am reading and helping me fine-tune a particular topic and/or period of study .  I’m pretty jazzed about that.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ve already got my library card and everything.

It’s an exciting time, and I’m looking forward to it.

Positive Writing

I’ve been a little negative in my writing lately, so I’m going to do my best to make this one positive, because regardless of what we read on Facebook or twitter, or what we see on the television or hear on the radio (does anyone other than me still listen to the radio?), the world is still a pretty swell place…most of the time…especially when people aren’t screwing it up (shhhhh…remember…positive writing!).

What makes this particularly difficult is that as I look out the window in front of me, I see an overcast sky.  Gray and really just kind of blah.  My handy-dandy weather app tells me that the sky will be clearing to partly cloudy over the next few hours, allowing the sun to shine.  That’ll be nice.

As I’ve said in posts past, I’ve been thinking about my writing.  I’ve been thinking about what it is that I want to say.  I’ve also been thinking about what it is that you want to hear. I bought a book on writing prose yesterday at the bookstore, Good Prose:  The Art of Nonfiction, Stories and advice from a lifetime of writing and editing by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd (I really should own stock in Barnes & Noble), and I loved the opening line of the first chapter, “To write is to talk to strangers.”  Granted, many of the people that are reading my writing are not strangers, but I’m sure that some are. This is a fact though.  I’m putting my thoughts, my “stuff”, out there for a theoretically infinite number of people to read.  Since I do not know an infinite number of people; I have to assume that a fair amount of strangers are going to be reading my thoughts.  And here’s the hard part…

I want strangers to keep reading my stuff.  I even want strangers to comment on my stuff so that I can carry on a dialogue with strangers.  I’m talking to strangers!!  Are we not supposed to talk to strangers?  I’m pretty sure I heard that more than a few times in days long gone by. But anyway, I want strangers to come back and read more of my stuff, and maybe re-read some old stuff.

Enough of that.  You don’t want to hear me blather on and on about my writing.

Last Monday began a five week stretch at work with one day off, so I’m not sure how much writing I’m going to get done over that span of time…shit…more about my writing.  Okay, I’ll stop.

Anyway, a five week period of work with one day off.  It is hard to be positive with that staring me in the face, but I’m going to try.

C’mon August. You cannot get here soon enough.

I am positive that when you get here, I am going to enjoy it.

See what I did there…

To, or To Not?

I’m taking just a few minutes, the next 25 or so, to do a little free writing on a topic about which I have not written in a couple of weeks…

Fear.

A few weeks back, I read a post by Holistic Wayfarer entitled “What If You Weren’t Afraid.” At the end of the post, she posed a question: How would these things look different in your life, if you were not afraid? I posted a couple of weeks ago some thoughts concerning a couple of the topics listed after the question, particularly those concerning my relationship with my sweetheart and the relational boundaries I draw with other people. I just took a look over the list again and noticed the topic “Your blogging” so I figure why not start there.

How would my blogging look different, or be different, if I were not afraid. I guess what needs to be done is figure out of what it may be that I am afraid when it comes to my blogging. I was reading over another previous post of mine and noticed something I had written that kind of goes along with this very idea, and it goes a little something like this…

When I find something on which to write, I tend to tread my path lightly. I don’t want to piss somebody off that may read what it is that I am writing. I look “for the solution that will come without a conflicting response or opinion…when that does not work, I go to like-minded souls that will reassure me that the course I wish to take is the right one and will not falter.”

Essentially I fear an argument. Really, it isn’t so much that I fear an argument. If you know me, you know I love a good argument. What it really is is that I am tired of arguing. It gets old, especially when the arguments are always about the same shit. The day may be different, but the arguments are always the same, especially when it comes to the topics I tend to follow and about which I care the most. There is rarely anything new added to the conversation. If, by chance, a new idea comes into the topic, the conversation will take a turn, but it always, always comes right back to the beginning. Then the parties of the argument get pissed off, turn and figuratively walk away with nothing be solved. Pretty much what it boils down to is that we are a bunch of children that refuse to give even an inch in the hope that a compromise or agreement can be reached.

That is what frightens me. I don’t want my blog to turn into a huge pissing match between people with different points of view, and I don’t want to begin censoring those who take part in any discussion that may come up because they refuse to act like grown-ups.

Then again, a little spice might be good. I have plenty of thoughts that can be considered nonconventional. They are certainly not aligned with the status quo. I do like to propose challenging and provoking thoughts. Otherwise, what in the hell am I writing for? Who wants to read something that doesn’t provoke at least a minimum amount of thought?

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that my blogging would be more edgy and more strongly opinionated if I were not afraid of some argument breaking out in the comment section. Moreover, what is troubling is the fact that I do not want any piece that I write to be boiled down into a simple yes/no debate that takes what is stated, and usually quite eloquently (if I may say so), and turned into some kind of talking point that can be recited on cue by some shmuck that does not have any skin in the game. I suppose I could just say screw it and write what it is that I feel and what I think, and say to hell with censoring myself. That would certainly be healthier for me as it would allow me to release pent up feelings and thoughts that swirl within my mind and body.

I’m going to mull this over some more before I make a decision, but it seems I have some things to ponder. It’s a good thing that pondering is something that I’m pretty good at doing.

You’ll have to stay tuned in order to find out which direction my pondering will take me.

A Title? Yes, it needs one…

I’ve been doing a bit of reading and research on writing, making my writing better, and expanding my readership. Within most of what I have read, there is a common theme; identifying my brand and sticking with it. Therefore, I am going to use this post to nail down what my brand might be, because the thoughts that spill out of my brain, either through my fingers or out of my mouth, tend to be completely random and based heavily on something I hear or read at a random time.  Really, what the majority of my writing here is, and will probably be for the foreseeable future, a response.

But what do I want my brand, my writing, to do? What do I want it to say? Those questions seem pretty important to me. I want my writing to have some purpose. I want it to not only to present my thought on whatever the subject may be, but to provoke a thought or response from the reader. A good response. A bad response. Something. I’d prefer it provoke an agreeable response, but I know that isn’t always going to happen.  Disagreeable responses are acceptable, too.  I’d like to make people’s heads nod or shake.

I guess that is what most of us here want.

I also understand that patience is my friend in this endeavor; a kind of “if you build it, he will come” thing.  Patience is not my strong suit.  Really, I stink at being patient, but I’m trying.

Anyway, I am going to keep trying to hone my brand, and follow where my writing takes me.  If there is one thing I know, it is that writing cannot be forced.  It has to come freely from somewhere inside with plenty of honest thought and contemplation.  Otherwise, it stinks…mine does anyhow.

We live in exciting times.  There are so many things happening around us all the time, and a lot of it is thought provoking.  Let’s see what is provoked and also where the thoughts go and what they generate.

We are…

“When we are honest, we admit how agreeable it can feel to be singled out for favored treatment.  The biggest barrier to equality for all is that inequality for some feels good.”

-Philip Gulley, The Awakened Soul, Part 12:  Democratic Character Structure

“As bad and frightening as mind-based forgetfulness can be, it is in no way as damaging as soul-based forgetfulness, when we forget what it means to be human, when we can no longer identify with the forgotten, the outcast, the poor, the hurting, the left out, and the left behind.”

-Philip Gulley, The Awakened Soul, Part 13:  When the Soul Forgets

This has been on my mind a lot over the last week.  I read the pieces in which they are contained toward the beginning of the week, and have had little time to think about them very much.

I lied in my last post when I said that I had not written anything in my notebook this week, because I did write these passages, and jotted down some thoughts concerning them.  I am going to begin there and see where this goes…

I admit that empathy is not my go to reaction all of the time.  Often, my knee jerk reaction is something more negative when it comes to someone screwing up, underachieving, making a bad decision, or otherwise living in a way with which I disagree.  This has a lot to do with my patience, which in some cases is nonexistent, especially when it comes to what translates in my mind as willful ignorance, stupidity, or laziness.  One thing that I am just as impatient about, and have a negative reaction toward, is when I hear or see another refusing to sympathize or empathize with another human being that has done no wrong toward anyone.  I guess in some ways that makes me a hypocrite.

Usually, once I slow down to think about these things, I see the error of my ways, but there are occasions when such will never happen.  One instance is willful intolerance, or willfully intolerant people; especially those that are intolerant of people who do no harm to others in any way.  Their intolerance is fueled by a lack of empathy because they refuse to understand something, or someone, that is wholly different from them or what they believe.  However, in order to have or show empathy, one need not agree with another.  They do not even really need to understand what it is they are refusing to tolerate. They simply need to understand what their actions are doing to those whom they are showing their intolerance.

It goes back to one of the above quotes from Philip Gulley.  Regardless of our present stations in life, we have all been in a position that puts us against the fray or singled out from the status quo.  We’ve all been there, and we remember how lonely it feels.  We all have experienced being told that something we are doing is wrong, yet we know in our heart, our soul, that what we are doing is right, and we want nothing more than to have our actions or points of view accepted.  We seek that connection with people, that connection that tells us that it is okay, that it will be okay, and life will go on.  We seek empathy.

Without that empathetic connection, remembering that in some way we have been there and can identify with the down-trodden, we lose a bit of our soul.  We lose a part of us that makes us distinctly human.

We are not perfect beings.  We never will be. Not the first one of us.  It is here that we are all equal.  We all make bad decisions, and sometimes those decisions bring harm to ourselves or to others.  With those decisions, there are always repercussions.  When the harm is done to ourselves, hopefully we learn from it in order to not make the same decision again.  When the harm is done to another, recompense must be brought to bear. With both cases, empathy is a necessary component to ensure neither happens again.

To simply say that one is undeserving of the same joys that others experience because they live a life that is different from the predominant world view is wrong, especially if that joy will bring happiness to them while not affecting another’s life in a negative way.

We have a challenge before us in that, as the first quote above illustrates, we all want to be given favored treatment for being right, or better yet, for being righteous. We are a prideful lot, even the most humble or penitent of us, and nothing fuels that pride more than the justification received when our actions or thoughts are given credence by those with whom we most strongly agree or identify.

We then forget that there are people that do not think the same way we do. People have different value systems; be they spiritual, material, or moral. As long as what is believed, or what one thinks, does not bring physical or mental harm to themselves or others, there is no need to degrade or tear those that do think or live differently down. Such only fuels an imaginary righteousness and puts people on different levels that do not exist but only in our own prideful minds.

We all have a right to live happily in the way that we choose, again, as long as that life does not bring physical or mental harm to ourselves or others. We all have a responsiblity to treat others in the manner with which we wish to be treated. These are rules that I was taught during my childhood.  I have no doubt that many were taught just the same way.

I work on this daily.  I take many deep breaths and do my best to understand positions that are counter to my own.  It is hard…I mean hard, and sometimes I fail. It is a challenge, and will continue to be.  It is a process; but one that will make me a better person in the long run, and will persist in making my life more pleasant and livable.

In essence, it is about bringing light to the lives of those we love, including ourselves, and those around us, rather than spreading darkness, and remembering that we all have a common core, a starting point that is inherently the same.  We are all people.  We are all human, and not one of us is perfect.

Now that is something with which I can empathize. Can you?

So Much Information, So Little Time

It has been a scatter-brained kind of week, and a little busy, too.  I haven’t had much time to sit and collect my thoughts, so there has not been much writing going on this week.  As a matter of fact, I have not once picked up my trusty notebook to jot anything down.  So let’s just go with another free writing session for this post…

It’s Saturday morning, and I just finished my weekend coffee.  If you follow me here or on Facebook, you know just how much I relish my weekend coffee.  And this weekend is no different.  The biggest difference is that I slept in this morning, waking up at around 8:30 or so, which never, ever happens.  I stayed up pretty late last night, too, and that, also, never happens…well anymore.

So I was a little late in having my coffee, but I had it nonetheless, and it was good…everything I knew it would be.

I’ve done the scan of the Facebook news feed and seen things that piss me off, make me happy, make me think, make me sad, or make me glad.  I’ve looked over my wordpress reader and caught up on a couple of the blogs that I follow.  Now, I’m sitting here to write, and little is coming to my mind and sticking around long enough to put something coherent together.

One thing that floats in and floats out is this controversy surrounding the release of the former POW, Bowe Bergdahl.  I’m not going to weigh in on this very much, because, one, I do not know too much about it, other than what has been spoon fed to us by the media, and, two, because I do not know too much about it, other than what has been spoon fed to us by the media.  All I do know is that he is a soldier in the US Army that was released by the Taliban in Afghanistan in exchange for five individuals held at Guantanamo Bay.  The funny thing is that is all any of us really know beyond what has been given to us by the media outlet from which we choose to receive our information.

If you read, watch, or otherwise observe multiple media outlets, you have received different points of view and opinions given by experts, former and active military personnel, politicians, or anyone else pretending they know what the deal is.  This is just one example of the amount of information out there and the vast number of opinions, facts, or observations that bombard us every single day.

It’s hard to know what is the truth anymore; because, as the media is teaching us, the truth is subjective.  It depends on how one views a particular situation, and that same one’s gut feeling concerning it.  We rush to judgement, handing out a verdict before evidence is presented, explained, and debated.  The truth no longer waits for objectivity.  It relies on the speed of its spread in order to influence thought so that the vessel spreading the truth can have bragging rights exclaiming “that you heard it here first.”

I dare say that with any “breaking news” story that has been broken in the past, I don’t know, ten years, a misconception or flat out falsehood, has been spread as the truth to the four corners of the globe, and even with evidence that points to the contrary, that truth is held on to with a stubborn insistence of its veracity.

This is just one reason why I rarely read or watch the news anymore, especially from an outlet that is more beholden to its advertisers and stockholders than it is to the people to whom they provide the information.  If I do catch anything, I do my best to glean what little fact may be presented in a piece, and then ignore, or try to forget, any of the fluff or opinion that is designed to keep one coming back for more.

Anyway, that is what is on my mind this morning as my fingers tickle the keyboard.

A Response

This is in response to this post by Holistic Wayfarer…

Upon viewing the list included in her post, I decided to focus on two topics within the list:  my relationship with my sweetheart and the relational boundaries I draw.  That seemed like a good place to start, and the two are somewhat related, so why not knock out two birds with one stone.

First off, I am an intensely private person.  Funny, huh?  Especially since I keep a blog.  I try to avoid anything too private when it comes to my writing here, only focusing on things that I believe many of us have in common.  That said, it still remains that I am intensely private.  I have a difficult, no, extremely difficult time letting people into my life.  This affects those topics listed above.

In short, I have walls…high, strong, and impenetrable walls set up to protect me.  What do they protect me from?  Or, what do they protect?  I’ve had these for a long time, as long as I can remember.  When I think about it, it isn’t just my protection that the walls serve, but also I do not like to have others close to me doting on my problems or worrying about me.  So, it is also about protecting them. It probably hurts a lot more than it helps, keeping these walls up, especially concerning my relationship with my sweetheart.  I do try to open up the gate and let her in, but it is pretty hard to do a lot of the time, and I well understand just how frustrating that can be for her.

I guess the truth is that I am afraid of how others perceive me.  I could say concerned, but it is really fear much more than concern.  I don’t much care for negative feedback or being criticized at all.  Who does? I prefer to be welcomed rather than shunned, liked rather than disliked, or loved rather than hated.

Is it better to be loved as the person I want others to see, or to be loved, or hated, for being the person I really am?  This is the question that my walls protect me from.  In truth, I do not even know if tearing down my walls will bring hatred or negativity my way.  Questions, sure, and a lack of understanding are possible, but hate?  It is out there. That much is sure, but let’s ask the question again.

Is it better to be loved as the person I want others to see, or to be loved as the person I am?

I think that is a much better question and focuses more on the feelings I feel and want to experience.

Though love is the most important emotion, and strongest, there is something to be said for respect.  You cannot have love without respect, but you can have respect without love.  So…

Is it better to be respected as the person I willingly show to others, or to be respected for the person I am?

It’s a good question.  To earn respect of another is a pretty fantastic feeling, but is that respect deserving when it is given without seeing the whole picture?  but, this is off the topic and may be better dealt with at another time.

Back to topic…

I am afraid of how others perceive me which brought me to the question asked above. We know what the answer is.  In the short run the first part seems like an obvious choice because, well, in the short run things tend to come and go.  However, in the long run, the latter must be true, otherwise the lies and deceit (intentional or intended with malice or not, it does not matter) will take their toll on the one hiding who they are, and, possibly, what they do.  Fruitful relationships cannot be built upon this and be expected to last and will ultimately fail.

I guess that is a long winded way of saying that, in terms of the topics stated at the beginning, without fear, things would look very different.  My relationships would be much stronger and infinitely more meaningful, thus contributing more positively to my life and happiness in it.  More or less, fear is crippling, and serves little positive function when it comes to relationships between people.

It’s Only Natural

After a long, long day, I returned home from work last night to something.  Something quite amazing.  On the sidewalk, not far from the door to my apartment, was a snake constricting a small songbird.  I did not witness the snake taking the bird into its coils, but watched as it continued to squeeze the life out of it.  My wife, of course, went out of her mind when I told her about it, but we both knew better than to interfere with it.  So, I continued to watch the scene unfold before me.

I will give you the scene in detail in a moment, but this morning I had a thought that I wanted to share with all of you…well, really a couple of thoughts…

We have a tendency to romanticize nature, basking in its splendor and beauty.  We photograph sunrises and sunsets.  We watch as deer or rabbits cavort in fields and backyards.  We attempt to bring a little nature inside with us by the use of aquariums or terrariums.  Often, the calmness of nature, the sweet melodies of songbirds at sunrise, the endless and gentle bubbling of a nearby brook or stream, the repetitive rhythm of the tide on the seashore, or the evening serenade of chirping crickets and bellowing frogs, brings us peace and serenity.  With all of that, we tend to forget how vicious nature can be, and how quickly the serene can become terrorizing, just as it did last night for the unfortunate songbird and its mate.

These two songbirds made the support beams beneath the second floor landing of my apartment building their home.  They could be seen huddled together at night after a busy day or in the morning, early, before the day began.  They could be heard singing sweetly as songbirds do.  In a word, they were adorable.

Then, last night, as one lost its life to its hungry predator, the other was shrieking harsh and panicked tones.  I could hear the panic it must have felt.  I do not know if birds experience fear as we do, but last night it experienced something dreadful and truly awful.  Once it realized there was no hope for its mate, the lone bird became quiet and, in my mind, sorrowful.

After the snake ate its prey, I brushed it away with a broom, attempting to bring my wife some level of comfort.  I’m still not entirely sure that worked, though.

The next morning, I woke early, I mean early for work.  3:30am early.  Yeah…early!!  Usually, when I’m up and out that early, I can look up into the woodwork of the landing above and see my two melodious friends.  It was not to be this morning.  I took a few more steps and saw my lonesome friend tucked snuggly into the corner, on the steps going up to the second floor and against the side of the building.  It happened to be the same step from which it watched its mate disappear into the coils and then mouth of its reptilian predator.

At that moment, the romanticization of nature set in and I felt a profound sense of sadness.  I felt a little sadness last night, but this morning, seeing that little bird huddled in the corner, in solitude as if placed in time-out, I just could not imagine the sorrow that I was sure it felt.

I don’t even know if birds feel sorrow or love, but I’m pretty sure I saw love last night.  I saw something tragic and beautiful at the same time.  Beautiful because the bird did all it could do to free its mate from its captor.  The anger and panic in the bird’s tone was present.  There was fear as well and desperation, but there was nothing the bird could do.  Eventually, the sense of desperation visibly and audibly became a sense of despair as the bird came to know that there was no way to save its friend.  The moment the bird came to that realization was powerful and instantaneous.  One moment it was screaming loudly, beating its wings furiously, and jumping here and there in sheer panic.  The next moment…nothing.  A mournful, almost pleading series of gentle chirps, no beating wings, and no jumping…just watching as it realized that there was nothing to do.  Its friend was dead.

Neither of those two birds knew that Wednesday morning would be their last morning together.  They had no idea that one of their lives was going to end that night.  I imagine that they went about their day as usual.  Chirping a little here.  Flying over there and then chirping a little more.  Eating a few bugs, perhaps a worm or two.  Such is a bird’s life.  No doubt they keep their eyes open for predators, for not even a songbird can be naive enough to think that dangers do not exist. I guess the hard part is knowing from where they might come.

In a previous post I stated, “People will not know what happens next, as much as we pride ourselves in believing we do know,” and it’s true.  100% true.  When something does not go in the way in which we expect, panic certainly sets in at least until the unpredicted situation is realized and a solution or a conclusion is reached.

Nature shows us again and again that as predictable as we think the world is, there are no guarantees.  Just take a tally of how often the weather man is spot on with his daily forecast.  Human ingenuity, logic, and reason can be used to explain so many things.  There is one thing, however, that they will never explain, and that is the natural element of surprise.  I admit it.  I don’t handle surprises very well.  Especially the bad ones.  I often times do not make lemonade when life hands me lemons.  I would prefer to throw the lemons back at wherever they came from.  I do not like to roll with the punches.  I don’t even like getting punched.  I would much prefer that the punching just stop as quickly as possible.  There are a ton of these I could go through, but I won’t.  I’m thinking you probably understand what I’m saying.  I hope so anyway.

Knowing all of this, however, I am still going to do my best to live life and not allow the fear of the unknown stop me. Regardless of what danger may lurk around any corner, it’s best to just keep on keepin’ on.  The world would be a pretty boring place otherwise.