Trigger warning — this post contains reference to specifics of cruelty to animals by human beings.
Here in our cave, or nest, or whatever it is, we've been curled on our perches watching Spy in the Wild. Do you know that programme? Its numerous episodes track the observations of cameras hidden in animatronic creatures modelled on wild animals and placed among them to record their lives.
Among other animals and birds and reptiles, today we were watching the unfolding of life among rockhopper penguins. We saw their almost unbelievable landing from waves breaking onto the rock formations of their island shore, then their astonishing ascent up the cliffs to their mates and chicks awaiting. So arduous, so perilous, a climb interrupted by tumbling falls down metres of unforgiving rocks — only to pick themselves up and begin climbing.
As we snacked on chocolate and drank tea and watched these plucky and determined birds on the television, I marvelled at how kindly and gently Life treats (some) human beings. Not all, of course. There are some penned in cages on the Mexican border. There are some held in concentration camps in China; thousands marooned hundreds of miles from home, shut out by lockdown on the streets of Indian cities with nothing to eat and nowhere to go. There are homeless people in Los Angeles, offered only rectangles painted on a car park surface to live in; marginalised Roma in Italy pushed out from a fair chance at belonging or inclusion — all over the world, human beings shunned and trapped and rejected and tortured by their fellow humans. We are a violent and cruel species.
I look at the clever and greedy eyes of politicians, the dead gaze of media moguls, the cunning of opportunistic preachers, the horrible calm of ideological leaders who have learned how to milk their spiritual prey. I look at the terrible patience and resignation in the eyes of beaten women, abandoned children.
I watch a video of men in Canada, filmed in a pig farm, free to vent their incomprehensible spite and cruelty on defenceless piglets, batting them through the air with spades, chopping off their noses, slamming their bodies down until they convulse in agony on the concrete floor, while the mothers watch from metal cages too small even to let them turn around.
And here am I, who know these things, and wonder how to live with the knowledge, how to be alive in the human race shut in its homes in fear of a prowling virus, prey also to the insidious feeding of bankers and billionaires, sucking out the last juices from a tanking economy.
"What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?
And the Son of Man, that Thou visitest him?"
And even yet, the immense kindness of divine love comes back again and again to the corrupt and dissolute children of rejected love, asking us over and again if we will not have compassion now, if we will not try what love can do.
Perhaps, in these days, so far as within us lies, it's time we learned.