Job 12:7 But ask the animals — they will teach you — and the birds in the air — they will tell you. (CEB)
Recently, I spent an afternoon in the St. John’s Pottery studio of master potter Richard Bresnahan. Richard has a deep spiritual connection with the earth; that connection shows in all his pottery. He can tell the story of each piece of pottery – which annual firing of the Johanna wood-fired kiln it was in, which chamber of the kiln, the various natural glazes used, how the flames swept over the piece, and how the glazes interacted with each other and the fire.
The latest firing produced, among hundreds (thousands??) of pieces, a series of beautiful bowls. One in particular echoed the sentiment of Job 12:7 – listen to the birds of the air and they will tell you marvelous things about the harmony of the creation and its creatures.
On the bottom underneath side of the bowl (the only part of the bowl that was not glazed), the first bird emerged from the center-point of the earth. That bird was the beginning of a long line of birds that flew with the sweep and flow of the glaze, spiraling upward on the bowl’s outside. As they flew upward, the birds became larger, until they went over the rim and started their descent. As the birds spiraled downward on the inside of the bowl, they grew smaller until the last tiny bird disappeared back into the center of the bowl.
How easy it is to forget that, as human being, we are a natural part of the created order. While we may have a crucial role to play as a self-aware, discerning species, we have a special responsibility to the creation because of our unique capacity to over-use, rape, and pillage the creation. Without restraint we can compromise the planet’s health and destroy our capacity to survive on this “blue marble” called Earth.
Listen to what the birds tell us: We are grounded in the creation – we are stardust, wonderfully made. We can soar and fly high and we will ultimately return the material of our bodies to the earth – ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The birds fly in harmony with nature, in a natural flow . We, on the other hand, seem to want nature to fly with us – a most unnatural flow. We want to clear-cut the Amazonian forest. We pour all kinds of industrial wastes into our lakes and streams; then we are surprised when our children suffer lead poisoning. We burn coal and oil as if the reserves will produce forever.
My friends, the birds remind us that “forever” is on the near horizon. The universe does not give us a free lunch – every resource available to us has its limitations… every promise given extracts a portion of a limited supply… every denial moves us closer to our return to inter-galactic dust.
Listen to the birds. Hear their wisdom for us.