In the interfaith aquarium

I have always enjoyed visiting aquariums (aquaria?). I am fascinated by the unbelievable diversity of sea life- the different colors, shapes, tricks, and defenses that these creatures manifest. How is it possible that all these things are alive? No matter how many arms or fins or other appendages they may have (or lack), no matter how big or small or non-existent their eyes may be, whether they dart, glide, hunker down, or attach to a rock- “the Lord God made them all.” In them all is that indefinable spark we call “life.” Life that has evolved, adapted, defied or accomodated to the environs in which it finds itself. And always interdependent- linked inextricably to the environment and to each other. Take one away, and the whole suffers.

I was thinking of the aquarium today as I watched people pass by on their way to and from the afternoon workshops. So many colors, variations, rituals, art- some of it familiar, or merely odd, some of it exotic and alien. How is it possible that human beings can find so many ways to honor the sacred?

And how are we, like the life in the sea, inescapably tied to one another? I don’t want to press the image too far- there are creatures like sharks which function as predators on other species- but what is the web of interrelationship that we disregard at our peril? How is respecting another’s faith tradition essential to preserving our own? Crusades, inquisitions, and pogroms have never strengthened faith; they have only diminished the world in which faith dwells. What new way of relating will enable us to live together in ways that benefit us all?

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