Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Ostrich

"The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork. She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly,as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider." (Job 39:13-18)

I was going to try to explain the fuller story of the ostrich, but I don't think I can get into it all now, as it is a very long and convoluted tale. Let us just say, as far as I can tell in the context of the Job quotation, the ostrich herself (and the other animals vividly described in that chapter) is a symbol of the forces that resist human explanation. She is not, after all, a very powerful or dangerous animal, she is just weird: look how her knees actually bend the wrong way; she has no ears to speak of, just holes in her head; she is an enormous flightless bird, when, to the ancient mind in general, and reflected in the Hebrew dietary laws, all "natural" things were supposed to have set "natures" that could be discernible by human observation and categorization - and birds, by definition, are feathered things that fly - and she has thereby defied human attempts to define or comprehend her; if the Jobian author's story of her cruel mothering is true (though I chose a picture that belies it), it is a "miracle" she propagates her species at all - though how weird to speak of a "miracle" to mean the continuation of a species characterized by cruelty and senseless destruction.

But I have now taken the humble ostrich as my Spirit Animal, my inspiration, to remind me that there is so much in the world that cannot be understood or limited or tamed. That does not offer me complete immunity from the natural human frustration when confronted with such things, but it does begin to tilt my feelings more toward "wonder" and away from the more negative aspects of frustration, rejection, or denial. I will keep trying.


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