Each morning I pass Momma Dove sitting over them: an image of many things to me in a mind getting ready to teach college philosophy. As she feeds, protects, and serves the little cheeps, she is an icon of the good God. One might find a morning devotional there, but I shall refrain. One could wax scientistic like a PBS documentary and tell of the cycle of life or go the full Disney and personify the cheeps, one surely being comic relief. Both have been done to death, so I shan’t and shan’t again.
Instead, my goal has been to see what is there every day: exactly what is there. This is marvelous, though today it was nearly horrible. Mother dove was gone as I came upstairs and the cheeps were cheeping. “Where is she? Normally she is nearby when I . . .” and then I saw that aging killing machine, the guardian of our household, Athena the cat. She was sitting, staring, looking up at the box. Even a year ago, the deed would already have been done, but she may not be able to make the jump anymore. This is a good thing as I am not sure that the box would have taken her weight. Cheeps and cat might have plunged down to the patio and that would have been too horrible a story to tell.
I scooped up Athena, the cheeps were saved, and the mother has returned. Athena sleeps on the table, yet twitches every so often. Is she dreaming of what is out there?
This demonstrates the limits of images: the mother that flees the cat while leaving her cheeps as prey is a bad icon, would get terrible documentary ratings, and should not be animated with catchy music. This is what happened, however: the truth. Doves are not people. In tough times, my mom stuck with us. I remember once as a small child sitting in a car with another little friend. Somehow the brake released, one of us probably pulled it, and this being West Virginia, the slope began to roll the car down the hill. Mom grabbed the side of the car, was being dragged down with it, but somehow engaged the brake.
Because Mom was not a dove, she acted, a woman courageous and created in the Image of God. She would not leave the cheeps, because we were more than cheeps. She had a choice and her choice was to save children and not just watch. There are, I am told, other animals who would do anything to protect their cheeps, but Mom did more than just react, she used her mind to save us. She did not just rage against the machine, but stopped the car by using her mind. An animal might stand and fight for the cheeps, but only a mother could fight with courage and cunning. Mom had courage, because she knew, instantly, what might happen to her and still stayed. She had cunning in that she did not try to do what she could not: stop the car by brute force. Instead, she thought quickly and acted courageously, stopping the car by her keen wit.
The truth of the world reminded me of some likenesses, God’s love for us, devotion, the cycle of life, and funny anthropomorphic cartoon animals. The truth of the world also showed me the nature of the world: we are animals, but more than animals possessing immortal souls. We can choose to be redeemed, transformed, divinized and so become virtuous. Mom, perhaps, saved our lives that day. She was more than she might have been, because she remembered her Creator in the days of her youth. When an evil day came, she acted.
And that is the reality. Maybe today I can be like her, turn Godward, and be better than I might be.