THIS I BELIEVE
Every spring some gluttonous insects I have never seen start to devour my basil plants. And every spring, day after day, I kneel down by the plants and gently wash each leaf with the hose, all the while telling each plant that it is strong and beautiful, stronger than the insects and that it will survive them. This idea came from reading about experiments conducted on plants showing that they respond to kind words and if a plant is maltreated, the plant next to it will react.
This I believe: life loves life. At the most irreducible level there is only undifferentiated life.
I have always loved the Biblical story of Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt and becoming so powerful that he was able to feed his father and those same brothers when their land fell into a terrible famine. At the end of the story Joseph tells his brothers, “…ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
Life, like eternity, has no beginning and no end. It changes forms but has continual existence. It is always in the process of enhancing and supporting itself.
It may be that what stem cells most want to do is enhance and support life. Just as two geese will leave the flying formation with a sick or wounded goose and go to ground with the disabled goose until it dies or is able to fly again; just as sunflowers west of a nuclear plant in France refused to turn to the sun in the east; just as the prairie dogs I see along the walking trail will not scurry into their dens when I remember to mentally project a recognition that they are life, so may life at the cellular level recognize and long to foster life.
So what about abortions? This poses a peculiar difficulty because two life forms are involved. Abortion is always a matter of choice. The question is who makes the choice and how is that choice carried out.
The Holocaust? I truly do not know that any good came out of such unmitigated horror. I can only remember that Viktor Frankle who survived Aushwitz, wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning that life does not remain the same from hour to hour and that what matters is not the meaning of life in general but the “specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”
The basil? It survives into beautiful hardy plants that get made into pesto sauce which delights me through the winter. The insects? I don’t know what happens to them. Maybe they survived their life span. Maybe the basil feeds both of us.
And me? Three times a week I may remember to look upon another as an expression of the same life that is in me. Three is not much but more than in the past. And when I do remember I feel a joy in that given moment that lifts me above the stresses of the day.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.