How sea animals navigate through the wide expanse of the ocean is an awesome mystery. In the blue vastness of the deep, they find invisible pathways to food and safe habitats.
One of the fascinating stories from the Blue Planet BBC documentary series
is one on Ridley sea turtles. The segment starts with a scene of the changing phases of the moon, whose both daily and monthly cycles influence the dynamics of the sea. For Ridley sea turtles, the moon serves as some kind of natural clock that is synchronized with their biological cycles.
Ridley sea turtles, now included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) endangered species list, practice a mass nesting method, also called an arribada. On a few nights each year, about a quarter of the world’s population of Ridley sea turtles come to a specific beach in the pacific coast of Costa Rica to lay their eggs. Brought in by the high tides, up to 400,000 female sea turtles would come within a few nights, laying 40 million eggs.
These are not random nights. They would come when the moon is either in its first or last quarter, between the new and full moon (or between full and new moon), and there’s a very good reason why. When the moon is neither full nor new, the tides are the weakest, and thus the water will not wash away the sand that covers the freshly laid eggs, subjecting them to vultures that come at dawn, trying to feed on washed off eggs. It’s a risk mitigation plan.
These sea turtles, while they’re not laying eggs, travel through the ocean during the year to search for food hundreds of miles away from this beach. But each year, in accordance with sea turtles’ tradition, they come back in packs and lay their eggs again, starting a new generation of sea turtles.
Watching them, my mind just kept asking the questions, Who tells them to go to Costa Rica? Who teaches them to go when the moon is not the strongest? As a believer, there is only One Master who can get the credit of coordinating this life system. But even knowing that answer doesn’t make this story any less baffling.
Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? or knowest thou the time when they bring forth? Job 39:1-2
When I was a Bostonian (or just-outside-of-Boston-ian), randomness was one of life’s essentials. Due to the brilliant construct of the MIT campus, the great ol’ Massachusetts Avenue divided the campus between the student life section on the west side, where most of the dorms, gym, and student center were located, and the academic buildings on the east side. When my classes and research work were done on a random weekday, but before the problem set marathon, I would come out of 77 Massachusetts Avenue in the late afternoon and many times, instead of crossing the street to head to my dorm, I would turn left instead and walk toward Boston.
Upon turning, the Boston skyline across the Charles River would immediately be in sight. I would walk across the river, which would take about twenty minutes one way, and simply enjoy the breeze and the sight of a big body of water. When the sky was clear and blue, it would be very close to what I’d call perfection.
Usually, after I got to the other side of the bridge, I would simply cross the street and walk back. On a freer day during vacation, I would extend the walk into the city, walking along Newbury Street, crossing the Boston Public Garden and Boston Commons, even going as far as Government Center and Little Italy. For what reason, you may ask? Well, nothing particularly, except for the simple pleasure of walking and savoring the moment. I loved the fact that I didn’t need to go anywhere, didn’t need to do anything, and I could just…be.
Sure, the one-hour detour or the Boston loop may heal a case of a cluttered brain, or increase the oxygen intake in my blood stream. But these functional reasons were not really why I went on a walk. I wanted to enjoy the walk not for what it could do, but for what it was.
I believe in enjoying life. I believe in extracting as much joy as I can in various simple pleasures, and walking is one of the ways I find that enjoyment. The air, the surroundings, and the people – I get to experience all of that when I move at pedestrian’s speed.
As I get older, this type of spontaneity becomes less and less accessible. But I still believe in its importance. Perhaps it requires more intentionality in carving out time for enjoyment, especially amidst the numerous tasks that we need to do.
“There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24
Perhaps because the verse is sandwiched between Solomon’s “all is vanity” litanies, I used to read it in a more bitter tone: things are going to be gone and destroyed eventually, so just enjoy them while they last. But read in an optimistic way, the verse says quite a different lesson: don’t worry that things won’t last, just be grateful that they are here now. Take pleasure in food, enjoy your good labor – these are gifts from God.
Sometimes I think about how I would be remembered, should my life end. In a busy world that puts much value in working, I actually don’t want ‘hard-working’ to be the first thing people think about when they hear my name. Instead, I want to be remembered as someone who enjoys life and everything that I do, someone who lives with joy.
How fitting it is that Sabbath is here, a day to be savored not because it serves as a relief to the week’s burden or weariness, but because of what it is – a time to be.
“There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord… The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath)
The events that took place leading up to the ANEW Fall Conference 2011, the planning, the expected and unexpected happenings, the anticipation for the number of attendees, the novel program format and content, gave the team a sense that this conference was going to be epic in more ways than one. And it was.
For the first time, after years of claiming that I’m a part of a campus ministry movement, I can finally say that I came home from an event having witnessed a true movement. Why?
Because now, it has become evident that the students are moving. Finally, after saying it over and over again in many conferences, the attendees understand that ANEW is them. ANEW is not just the leaders and not just the conference; it’s everyone in the network. Finally, students are taking up projects and running with it. The network is finally moving.
Perhaps it was just so obvious that based on the number of projects we set out to the network and the ridiculous goals we set ourselves to do, people just knew there was no way these things will get done by 8 people. And so what did they do? They jumped on to the bandwagon.
You know you have a movement coming along when at the end of the conference, people crowd around the leaders to get involved with the different projects.
You know you have a movement, when after saying “Canvassing will change your life… getting doors slammed in your face,” you have students crowding Eunice to sign up for the summer canvassing program.
You know you have a movement, when after Juan appealed that we need to know very intimately the message that we are to carry on campus – the Three Angels Message – the 3AM Project doubled in size.
You know you have a movement, when after pretty much saying “We’re broke, but we’re not going to stop doing things,” people raised up their hands to come up with ideas, and rushed to David and Erica to join the fund raising team.
The newsletter project, high school and young professionals project, caregroup initiations … This thing is more than a full time job.
Accomplishments? That word is the least fitted word to what has happened so far with ANEW. Our work has only just begun, because the movement has only started.
It’s time for a deeper dedication. It’s time to really sacrifice and weed out unnecessary things in life. It’s time to move.