God should determine ‘circle of life,’ not us

About a week ago, I noticed three bright blue eggs, somewhat hidden beneath our fire pit. Looking around, I saw a mama robin perched on the pitch of our garage, seeming to watch me intently. I backed away, curious at the location.

The fire pit is perched in the center of our backyard on a large tree stump. Over the years, we’ve watched as the tree stump beneath has gotten somewhat charred and burned out. 

Here, in the space between the stump and the raised pit, is where the mama chose to lay her eggs. Here, close to the territories of squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and stray cats.

I’ve been watching those eggs. Every time I let my dog out, I watch as the mama removes herself from her strange nest and circles the perimeter. 

Often, she’ll perch on the garage, but sometimes she’ll be bolder and perch closer – on the fence or my car. Always watching. My dog doesn’t disturb her or the eggs – she wanders to her area and gallops back, intent on cuddles inside.

And then one morning I noticed the eggs were gone. 

I told my students about the eggs. I had never seen robin’s eggs so close before. I remembered the brightly colored chocolate candies, but never imagined the brightness of the eggs.

Many of the students were intrigued. They tried guessing why the mama had chosen such a precarious location for her nest. We’ve been reading detective fiction, and they fancied themselves on the hunt.

When I told them about the vanishing eggs, they were somewhat excited. “Did you see the babies?” “Wouldn’t there be some kind of evidence left behind?” “The eggs wouldn’t just vanish, unless…” 

A lone voice of irritation called out: “Circle of life. Raccoon or whatever ate them.” 

The class fell silent. I took that as my cue to begin discussing our final chapter of “The Woman in White.”

These events played in mind as my husband and I watched “Avengers: Infinity War.” Circle of life echoed in my mind as I listened to Thanos elaborate on his solution to overpopulation and scarcity of resources –  the elimination of half of the population.

The irritated tone, but clearly calculated response, reminded me of Thanos’ mindset. Believing the ends justify the means, his maniacal purpose is set in direct contrast to the goals of the Avengers.

(Spoiler alert!) As Captain America and his team realize the extent of Thanos’ power and his mission to retrieve the infinity stones, they attempt to formulate a plan of saving Vision. Vision sees only one way out: to sacrifice himself. But Captain America won’t have it: “We don’t trade lives.” 

That pro-life vision of refusing to “trade lives” is threaded throughout the harsh violence and action of the movie. 

Nothing is worth the price of an individual’s life. Life is precious. All lives have a meaning. It’s a somewhat hopeful and optimistic tone that is desperately needed in the chaos of the surprising final moments.

Certainly, we watch the circle of life play out in our backyards and on documentaries of hunter and prey. But to see such a flippant line thrown out casually, without care or empathy for the victim – baby birds or anything else – calls to mind the larger problem of playing God. Who are we to judge or determine God’s plan? That seems to be the mindset of our Avengers.

Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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