These past weeks I have been seeing and observing the cherry blossom (known as ‘Sakura’ in Japan) trees all over the neighbourhood. From mid-March to early April, a number of trees were already starting to bloom. In fact, the flowers blossomed so effortlessly that it is just a matter of days we see these big trees having more flowers than green leaves. Unfortunately, as quickly as they come, rapidly they fall as well. This is early May, and most of the cherry blossoms have dropped all their pretty petals. Cherry blossom flowers do not have a long life span. Soon, the streets are filled with decaying flowers fallen from the trees, just like trees that shed their leaves when Autumn arrives. Like the cherry blossoms and the autumn leaves, both eloquently testify how transient life is. Consider....
... the way Jesus talks about lilies being temporal flowers (Matt 6:30). The Greek word for ‘consider’ is (καταμανθάνω, katabaino), which means ‘to consider, to think about, to observe.’ Part of meaningful learning and thoughtful living has to do with the word ‘consider.’ I remember friends forwarding emails to me with simply three letters: “FYI.” It means ‘for your information.’ The modern paradigm is Information-Is-King, which is easily absorbed without question. As a result, many people live like thoughtless sponges soaking up all kinds of information, regardless of how helpful it can be. The internet for example is both a boon as well as a bane. While information is more easily available, the dark side is that it can dull our ability to discern the important from the trivial. Even more troubling is, when important information arrives, will there be any room left in us to receive them? Will we become so busy with the urgent-but-unimportant things that we lose the space and opportunity to tackle the important stuff in life? In our busy modern world infatuated with technological speed and business efficiency, our kind of living is often touch-and-go. No time to pause. No space to ponder. No priority to pray. One can appear to do a lot of things, but eventually accomplishing few meaningful objectives. Like a hamster running a busy workout on a hamster-wheel. The wheel spins very quickly, giving an aura of busy activities. Yet the hamster remains at the same place, accomplishing neither distance nor freedom. Sometimes, people can live like hamsters.
Consider a life of .... katabaino
Living a life without worry requires us to learn to actively consider life itself (katabaino). Like a camera, if we try to force the lens to take in both the near object and far backgrounds together at the same time, we get a pretty fuzzy overall photo. Experienced photographers will know that even complicated panoramic scenes will require the stitching together of several individually focused shots from different directions. Cameras need a focal point in which to zoom in, and to bring every other image relative to its central object. When we live a life of focus, learning to take one day at a time, or to enjoy one moment at a time, we appreciate life better. We understand the meaning behind why we do what we are doing. We avoid rushing through life doing a lot but gaining very little.
... The Person Behind the Creation
Learn from the teachings of Jesus. Life is not simply about doing more things in less time, to be more efficient or productive. That will make us like machines. Neither should life become simply about loitering around and complaining how unfair the world is. That will make one resemble a baby crying over spilt milk. The wisdom of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) has taught us that reading great libraries will not satisfy our hunger for knowledge. Accumulating wealth may buy us great possessions but meaning cannot be purchased likewise. I urge you my reader to learn the art of consideration. If you have eyes, learn to see more clearly. If you have ears, try to listen more deeply. If you have tongues, try to speak more kindly. If you have noses, try to breathe in more calmly. If you have hands, try to use it more helpfully. An open hand is infinitely more healing than a clenched fist. Above all, keep that one thing, that one goal in your life as follows:
“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.” (Ps 27:4)
It starts with the word ‘consider’ (katabaino). Better still, ponder about the One behind the creation. Wonder over the Provider behind the providence. Be thankful for the Giver behind the gift.
“Without any hesitation, and with a seemingly air of humility and thankfulness, the bird walked straight to her hand and began feeding. ‘Consider our little friend here,’ she began. ‘Most birds were created to fly. Being grounded for them is a limitation within their ability to fly, not the other way around.’ She paused to let Mack think about her statement. ‘You, on the other hand, were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around.’” (William P Young, The Shack, Newbury Park: Windblown Media, 2007, p99)
“No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?” (Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)