Circle of Life
January 15, 2009 Length: 9:39
In his first episode, Steve reflects on fish, turtles, Disney, life and death.
We really have Disneyminds. It was something you just don’t see in the city in Phoenix every day. In fact I think I may be the only person who has seen it twice in a lifetime: A turtle moseying across a street in 100 degrees. The Turtle was so… cute. It was obviously an orphan, so I stopped and picked it up, and we adopted it. We put it in the back yard and even more perplexing than being a turtle in Phoenix, it turned out it was a water turtle… it headed for the pond. We have a small pond (a water feature, they call it in the desert), and it has Disney fish in it. When I walk to the edge of the pond, 15 fish dart toward me and their mouths start kissing the surface. I throw fish food flakes into the water and they frolic, gobbling the sinking flakes, like giggling children catching huge snowflakes on their tongues. For a few minutes each morning I commune with my 15 best finned friends.
I should have known something was amiss. The last couple mornings they didn’t come to the edge, there was no greeting, no joy. They laid still, stiff as frozen fish sticks, at the bottom of the pond. I took some pond water and a fish to the pet store to be tested for a fish plague of some kind. It was lethargic, its clear eyes were now clouded over with a milky film. The pet store kid tested the water and said it wasn’t the pond water. We looked in the disease book. It said the introduction of a predatory or aggressive fish to the environment will cause fish to die. There are latent diseases that stress will cause to flare up and it will kill them. It was a reaction to a predator. I told him about the turtle and he said, yeah…that’s it. Water turtles are predators and we’d introduced one into their peaceful environment. It was the fear of death that had paralyzed them and was killing them. But the turtle was so… cute. He suggested that we put “feeder fish” in the pond, smaller ones the turtle could eat. The others were big fish now, too big for the turtle to eat, he said. They’d get used to it.
The next morning I went to the pond and I found 5 fish floating. Bitten in half. Disemboweled. The head of one is at the bottom of the pond. Several more are missing. My Disney Pond was stewn with corpses. The turtle could no longer restrain its nature, it didn’t go for the bait of sacrificial lambs, the fear paralyzed fish were easy prey. It wantonly killed, and not even just for food.
Disney lied. The Circle of Life isn’t The Lion King and Fantasia, the Fish and Turtle dancing the Nutcracker like Hippopotami and Crocodiles in tutus and ballet slippers, it isn’t wildebeests and lions and snakes and elephants dancing on each other’s heads singing show tunes. The Circle of Life is death. The Circle of Life is one creature kills another in order to eat and live. The Circle of life is blood shed just because of the nature of things. The Circle of Life is making a mangled carcass out of what was a graceful, feathery finned, multi-hued creature that only God on a good day could have imagined creating. The Circle of Life is randomly, wantonly having your life cut off by a predator without restraint. The Turtle was just being a turtle in the fallen world. The Reptile Store Kid said, “Yeah, it must be a male. They are bad. They kill just to kill.” The Fish were just victims of its Turtleness…and my Disneymindedness. We buried our Fish in the corner of the yard with our Dogs and Hamsters and Rats.
Ever since Adam ate the fruit, nothing fasts. The lion lies down with the lamb but only after it breaks its neck and disembowels it. This is the Circle of Life: everything dies, and if our prayers we pray in the liturgy are answered it might be painless. But mostly it is wracked with pain and suffering, sometimes inflicted by someone else, intentionally or not. In the end whether it is some ONE or some THING, our lives are often taken from us by creation and we are powerless to hold death at bay. The turtle WILL eventually kill us and deep within us, no matter how edenic and well kept the pond of our life is, we know it.
Hebrews 2 says Satan holds us in bondage by fear of death. Like fish swimming with a predator, we live, but we live paralyzed by fear of death. St. Paul says the sting of death is sin. We are living awaiting death, and it will come upon us perhaps instantly, perhaps slowly, but always certainly. We cannot move toward joy, toward the One who feeds us, toward each other, toward our Life, our Sun, our True Food. The fear of death turns us wooden, we become mere images of the reality of our true selves. We are stiff, lifeless, unconnected, motionless, joyless…dead yet alive. We live in death, dead in our trespasses and sins, false substitutes for true life. With our eyes clouded over we see shadows of reality and feed on twisted experiences that mimic joy, pleasure, union and communion. We live in constant dread of the Circle of Life because deep within we know the world and life is not a Disney cartoon. Lest I be misunderstood, Yes, the world is still beautiful. Paradise was lost but not obliterated, and God is still therein. But death reigns, Satan stalks us, and the creation is a beautiful pond with beautiful, rotting corpses floating on its surface while certain death lies camoflaged, waiting on the bottom to ravage us as we drift by.
Until and unless we come face to face with the power of death and its reality, we are living in a cartoon world. God did not enter a cartoon world. God did not come and to feed our illusions or hold our hands while we gasp for our last breath. Christ came and lived true life. He was the only human being to ever live truly, unparalyzed by fear of death…, and he took death into Himself, He took death into eternal life and he defeated death by death and now life reigns in Him.
Yes… on the Cross, God damned the Circle of Life. He entered the circle and broke it. By death He rendered powerless him who had the power of death and delivered those who were held in slavery to the fear of death, St. Paul says. Satan is cast down and he and this fallen existence will gasp their last rotting breath some day when death and Satan are cast into the lake of the second death. On that day, in the power of the Resurrection, Life will reign triumphant and eternal. (Rev. 20:14)
The lion will lay with the lamb, not because the lion has become a lamb but because Life reigns. The Turtle will swim with the fish, but it won’t become a fish, it will coexist in all its true Turtleness because Life reigns in it. And we will live in true communion, the image of God fulfilled in us, swimming in joy because of Him who damned death by His death. God damned the Circle of Life, Mr. Disney and Elton John. It is in Christ that your cartoon life is fulfilled and takes on reality. Until that day when Life embraces creation and all is transformed, I wait, like all creation waits in hope, groaning and weeping at the fallen Circle that encompasses all that is beautiful and joyful in this world. (Rom. 8:19)
By the way. We excommunicated the Turtle. Its still alive, but not in our Pond Fellowship any longer. The Reptile Store Kid took him.
"I remain impressed by the diversity of your podcast presentations. AFR is important in my spiritual life and hoped for growth as an Orthodox Christian."