You could call this one a Question and Answer Reflection, allowing you to explore the question and the answer with us. Exploration means there is no judgment in whatever answers we come up with collectively and individually. These are questions that stay with us and help us to think, ponder, grow, and change. While it may sometimes seem there are right answers, there are simply: answers.
E and I were pondering the same question last week, perhaps proving the point that the questions continually arise in new ways. They change as we change and grow. We ask the same questions in different ways and at different stages of our lives. More often than not, answers evolves and changes with us.
Perhaps this is a question and nswer with no Answer, but an invitation to personal reflection…maybe even discussion.
As many of you know, I was here begin “dogged” by a fly last week. I thought: I certainly can’t kill a fly up here! This is the place where God’s Candles are lit. This place is where God’s presence is invited in. God: whatever that means to you; that in itself is a Question, an Answer, an Exploration, a Journey. This is a place of Grace, and Mercy, and Love. I can’t kill, even a fly, here.
I felt I needed to reframe the story. It was a visit from a fly. It wasn’t doing me any harm. Something was being asked of me. There was something for me to learn. It’s not about the annoying fly, but my relationship to the experience and cultivating grace in distraction. Patience. Asking myself: what does Love mean in this moment. This moment exactly as it is. With a fly visiting.
It is Joe Young who says that each time we are continually visited by something from the non-human (and human) world, we have an opportunity to create connection. He uses a bird as an example, not a fly. We begin to notice repeat visits and quirks and characteristics that make this bird unique and special. We might even name the bird. Each time, we create a deeper connection. A deeper tie to this other creature and we begin to care more about this creature. A thicker and stronger thread in the Web. It becomes a friend. There is a touch of love.
One of my favorite literary quotes that speaks of the tie of love is from Jane Eyre and is spoken by Mr. Rochester to Jane:
“It is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.”
One might ponder familiar themes of ribs and ties and bonds from Genesis to this quote. The connections and ties of love. The thickening of the thread on the Web.
Maybe a bit much to apply to a fly. One might argue it’s a bit much for a bird. Or not. Where do we draw the line of…not good enough?
Apparently, E Was having some of these same questions in his pew of the Sanctuary last week. Are we “allowed” to kill things in the church? In the Sanctuary? And why not okay “here”, but okay “there”?
I’m pretty sure we’re all familiar with the basic instruction: thou shall not kill.
It seems pretty straightforward, really. Don’t kill.
But we kill things all the time and we all have very different levels of what’s okay to kill and what’s not. We kill flies, ants, wasps, hornets, ticks, mice, rats…. Honestly, our Have-a-Heart traps give us instruction on the best way to kill what we’ve trapped. Where’s the heart part of that? We eat meat. We accidentally kill things with our cars and our planes and our boats. We kill things with our actions and purchases and often have no clue of our ripple effects on the land and the non-human (and human) world of many of the things we do.
We kill all the time and think nothing of it.
When pondering what we kill, we might come back to Genesis and the Naming of Things. Naming creates connection and ties. Threads that thicken and bind on both ends. The Reciprocity of Life and Living and the Garden. We are intricately connected and bound to protect and love, to tend and care for.
And yet, we sometimes do kill for the greater good. I’m deliberately using a potentially cringe worthy phrase, one that makes us think, reflect, and ponder. We sometimes do need, perhaps, to cull the flock for the health of the community, or alleviate infestations and disease. We may need to step in to balance the unbalance. Perhaps the key is to ponder am I killing out of fear or for the actual greater good and what is that actual greater good?
We kill things and promote killing all the time. Have a conversation around wars and the death penalty and we’ll see that this is true. Are we promoting for the actual greater good or out of some fear or…because it’s easier and quicker to get the problem out of the way?
What is that greater good? Is it a greater good? There’s been a lot of “for the greater good” that is just plain horrible.
Thou shall not kill. Maybe not so straightforward as it seems. Maybe the non-human world doesn’t count. Or only parts of the non-human world count. Maybe all of us count. Maybe only some of us count. It’s an interesting something to continually ponder, thou shall not kill, lest we fall into the trappings of just following along.
Maybe it comes back to mercy. Often, we kill in unnecessarily cruel ways. That is definitely not the path of mercy and grace and love. And the collective we does it without thinking. Or with not-thinking-through thinking. Out of anger or thoughtlessness. Or fear.
Perhaps we need to eat meat. Perhaps we need to cull the infestation or imbalance. Perhaps we need to go to war. Perhaps we need to punish. Perhaps.
Perhaps we do need to clear out the flies. Perhaps we have something to learn. Perhaps both.
As we ask questions and seek answers, there is a constant evolving change going on around and in us. Few of us kill nothing at all. Very few of us. We have been gifted a life where we can ponder: can we kill a fly in church? We can allow that to ripple forth into a bigger exploration of thou shall not kill…and into our collective and personal practices of mercy, kindness, honesty, and the ties of love in the web of life.
Perhaps Lis is right. Maybe it’s a little less about thou shall not and more about…thou shall. What shall we do this coming week to cultivate mercy, kindness, and love.