Wednesday, June 18, 2008

gentle hands

gentle hands
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
When the kids and I crossed onto one of the islands on our way to our campsite on Sunday, we came upon a field full of cattle at the edge of the marsh. As we got closer, we could see that for nearly every cow, there was at least one cattle egret milling about her feet, or riding on her back.
Will’s brain made the symbiotic connection, but he began talking about a completely different relationship. I can’t ever remember what it was, but it started us talking about symbiotic and parasitic relationships. The cattle and the egrets are such a wonderful, obvious example. The cattle kick up bugs for the egrets to eat, and in return, the egrets protect the cattle from pesky tickles and painful bites.
We were certainly placed here in symbiosis. We breathe in symbiosis with nature. We inhale what nature exhales, and nature inhales what we exhale. But we increasingly have become parasitic in our own environment. We’ve added exhalation that is detrimental not only to our symbiotic partners, but also to us.
Perhaps there have always been parasites, but it seems they have always depended on stronger hosts to support them. What happens when the strong become the parasites feeding on the weak? The answer is all around. Though nature is resilient and tends to bounce back, it is impossible for it to recover while it is still being abused.

The ultimate end is that humans become parasitic one to another. It fascinates me that most often when we think of humans being parasitic to others, our minds conjure images of panhandlers, welfare recipients, and thieves. And no doubt there are parasites among them. But the most damaging parasites are the powerful who feed on the weak. And I observe that this is the more common parasite. Soon, the weak are depleted and the parasite is fat, happy and powerful.
Human relationships are intended to be symbiotic. Iron sharpens iron. But even, one-on-one, often one partner feeds off the other in unhealthy ways emotionally, economically, narcissistically, and even sexually.
It is so encouraging to see gentle hands finding joy in another, without taking the other as a resource, a pet, or a trophy.