This Mortal Coil

Occasionally I like to read about the goings on of odd creatures. For a variety of reasons, I tend to be especially fond of beings that are a bit eccentric and unusual in a harmless and generally cute way. One of these animals is the saiga, an antelope of the Eurasian steppe with an odd snout [1]. If I remember correctly, I even got to see a living saiga during a trip to the San Diego Zoo when I attended the Feast of Tabernacles one year in Escondido, although apparently the animal no longer lives there. Like many animals, it seems as if Chinese traditional medicine views its snout as having some sort of magical powers, and so the animal has been hunted to near extinction. Over the past few months an unknown disease killed about half of the known saiga in the world, leaving about 120,000 corpses of this nomadic antelope as a puzzle to be solved by those who are friends of this unusual creature. The threats to the survival of the saiga are so grim that the nation of Kazakhstan has forbidden all hunting of the animal within its territory (where most of the surviving animals live) so that its population can grow.

How are we to help the saiga survive? To be sure among the biggest aids to its survival would be overcoming the tendency of traditional Chinese medicine to hunt animals to extinction for bogus naturalistic remedies and potions to increase the potency of old men and the like. If this quirky antelope could be appreciated as an odd creature, but a creature in its own right, then it would be far less valued as a bloody carcass so that its horns could be taken from it. Shockingly, the World Wildlife Federation had suggested saiga horns as a replacement for rhino horns in a pyrrhic success in turning attention away from one animal and towards another rather than in dealing with the root cause of the wanton destruction of animals for their horns. It is a difficult task to save creatures from ourselves, and our own tendency to wish for vicarious strength through the slaughter of others, but surely the saiga, with its odd but loveable face, is a worthy animal to save.

Yesterday I heard the news that one of my elderly friends had died after a lengthy struggle the last few years against a battery of woes. Although she was elderly and infirm, her death was still a shock, as she had continued her normal activities up to the end. In many ways, she reminded me of my own slender but spirited grandmother, only blessed with a better fate when it came to company. At least a few times I had gone to dinner parties with her (and her widower) and she was always full of that irreverent humor that one sees from Betty White, encouragement, and enthusiasm for life. It did not matter that health was a struggle, for surely she had more verve and passion for life than many people far younger than she. And despite the struggles against cancer and other woes, she was able to die in her sleep peacefully, which is the way anyone would want to go if they had the choice.

How are we to live in the face of our knowledge of and certainty of death? When I think about the death of those I have known, the most notable aspect for those I am fond of is absence. It is the absence of the friendly company and joyful conversation that I appreciate so much in life, and the knowledge that such company will have to be enjoyed in another world and not in this one. We also know that suffering is inevitable in life, but somehow we must find what can be enjoyed because there will always be parts of life that are unpleasant or painful and nothing we can do except trade one set of circumstances for another. Our wants are limitless, our capacities limited, our world broken and corrupt and full of evil. Why should we not rejoice in the company of good friends, find cheer in the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, in our marriages and families, if we are lucky enough to have them? There is enough sorrow in this world that we should not neglect the decent joy that may be found.

Recently I found out that a young woman I had known well and loved greatly in my youth, now married with a couple of children of her own, had a large tumor in her liver. Very quickly, and consistently, my prayers went up on her behalf. It has been twenty years since I was close to her, and at least ten years or so since we have last communicated with each other, but the heart never truly forgets those who one has cared for, no matter what a complicated course life has taken. Some people may not always remember it fondly, but so long as someone has proven themselves friendly, and so long as there has been time spent in enjoyment, good company, and good communication, and one has done nothing for which one has cause to repent, I tend look back perhaps a bit wistfully, but not in anger or hostility. After all, I am the sort of person for whom old friendships can be restored very easily, provided there is a willingness on the part of others to be friendly and gracious with me.

Yet even here there is a moment of some concern, perhaps even worry. After all, my own personal history when it comes to sending cards or letters of condolence or congratulation for people with whom there has been a prolonged period of silence or estrangement has not inspired any great amount of confidence. Nevertheless, despite this lack of success in conveying myself successfully [2], I feel compelled to try, not only to practice the expression of feelings even where the past is an issue, but also because doing the right thing by someone is important no matter what past exists. One does not only want to do what is right, though, but one also wants it to bring encouragement and happiness to others, and to bring success to one’s endeavors of building bridges and opening lines of communication where they have fallen into disrepair with age and neglect. Is it too much to hope for not only to live life, but to be able to build links with others that can withstand the ravages of time and memory? Life is too short to cut oneself off from friends and brethren as easily as is often the case.


[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to This Mortal Coil

  1. Pingback: Haste To The Wedding | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Art Of The Handwritten Note | Edge Induced Cohesion

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