Monday, 17 June 2013

Encounters with a Caterpillar - Part 1 - With the Haze

Today, the haze is thick and visibility is very poor. The smell of the polluted air is suffocating and it doesn't take a whizz to figure out that breathing in this kind of air is detrimental to our health. We may take precautions by wearing a mask when we go out, dropping eye drops to wash out the dust that inevitably gets trapped in our eyes, making them feel sore and uncomfortable. We will know better not to go outdoors for a game of sports or a jog (though last I checked, there were people playing tennis downstairs). We will know to keep ourselves and our children indoors, pray for a strong wind or a heavy downpour to carry the dust away from us. For we know that this air is bad for us.

But not always do we find conditions being as obviously detrimental to us as the haze. Some weeks back, I began this little mission of rescuing the caterpillars on my dad's lime plant. I keep them, feed them, shelter them until they reach adulthood and fly away. Not all managed to reach that stage though. Some of it being my fault.

Once, I fed the two caterpillars I had with the leaves from the plant. It was the usual thing to do, the same plant, the same type of leaves. And they ate the leaves. But those leaves, with their normal and harmless appearance, instead of nourishing the wormies became the poison that killed them. I was taken aback, puzzled over the mysterious deaths.

It wasn't until much searching through the list of possibilities that I recalled my dad making known his intention to spray chemical onto the plant to kill the caterpillars. And I had totally forgotten about it. What had seemed good and life-giving was actually a murder weapon, once consumed, destroyed life inside out. All because I had not examined carefully what I was putting into the caterpillars' mouths, and had not registered the warning given by my dad.

Often, the many things around us take on a harmless appearance too. An innocent and curious first puff leads to an addiction to tabacco. An advancement in career that appears as a good opportunity for personal growth ends up possessing our time, our lives and breaks down our family relationships. A good-paying job that promises us a better quality of life and a better future for our children somehow becomes the very thing that shifts our priorities to make what is less important more important than what is truly life-giving and important. A seemingly right white lie told to protect someone's heart is the very thing that breaks trust and disrespects the other's right to the truth no matter how justified it is. 

The contrary seems valid too. 

A nourishing Eucharist, the true presence of Christ is not valued and treasured, and we don't think very much of this humongous grace given to us, and thus, we do not claim the love that God intended for us in the Eucharist. 

Discipline of children now becomes something wrong for a child needs to be showered with every possible tender loving care. Discipline has been kicked out of the equation of love. 

Driving within speed limits is taken to be a sign of weakness, the grade of a lousy driver when in actual fact, the one who tailgates and speeds way beyond the limit is the one who fails to realise the preciousness of his life and the lives of others. 

What seems ordinary or bad may well be the very thing that builds lives, moulds character, nourish our souls, rests our minds, and gives us that experience of loving and being loved. 

What do we feed our lives with? With what is life-giving or life-taking?

Do we know what is life-giving and what is life-taking for us? Beyond the disguises?
Perhaps, the call is to pause for some stocktaking, to wash those lime leaves in water to see if it foams up, to pay more attention to the warnings, before deciding to consume or discard.

What in your life is nourishing? What in it is poisonous? 

What are you going to do with those that are poisoning you?
Will you continue to play tennis in the haze anyway?

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