I was listening to a podcast today about osprey. More specifically, an osprey nest equipped with a camera that sends out live footage across the Internet—and this particular nest holds three osprey chicks.
The problem with this promising scenario: the mother of said babies is behaving badly. Instead of sheltering, feeding, and caring for her brood, Momma Osprey is bullying, attacking, and even starving her young by consuming much of the food her mate supplies, intended for the chicks. In general, she is behaving in ways that would land her feathered ass in jail, if only she were human.
As you might imagine, the footage prompted howls of protest from angry, horrified, resolute animal lovers who demanded that something be done to rescue the chicks, and fast. Feed the chicks! Remove the chicks! Whatever! Some even went so far as to insist Momma Osprey be…well…sent to osprey heaven.
The foundation that operates the camera, politely declined.
Their stance: nature is harsh, unpredictable, and deadly. While it may be unpleasant to watch, nature is not cruel, because cruelty implies motivation, and we cannot imbue nature with emotions no matter how much we might wish otherwise. Nature just is. What was happening in front of the camera was reality.
Unexpectedly, I made a connection.
Dealing with our own old age and impending deaths, and/or those of our loved ones, requires the same kind of stance: it just is. No matter what we do to change the outcome, whether we exercise more, eat less, swallow supplements, meditate, or do hot yoga six times a week, we will all still, eventually, grow old and die. Period.
Just as nature is harsh, so is the certainty that no matter what we do, our lives will end. It is not easy to consider the magnitude of this particular truth. Understandably, we want nothing to do with it, in the same way we want nothing to do with the reality of struggling chicks.
I understand. I feel the same way, especially regarding the baby birds and sometimes even about the very thing I spend my days submerged in.
So the connection was this: I realized that by asking people to talk about their own (or their loved ones) old age and death, I’m really asking them to put aside their reflexive denial and face something easier to ignore.
Happily, at least with respect to what I’m asking people to engage in, watching video footage showcasing every last, horrible detail is not required. But an acceptance of reality certainly is.
It’s imperative that we put aside our denial of old age and death in order to move forward. Forward into a season that, much like winter, may well be deadly, but that may also be beautiful, valuable, and inspiring.
I know it’s hard. I hate it as much as you do. But it just is.
Since we can’t change it, doesn’t it make sense to figure out how best to face it?