(with a few tweaks: our 2013 tomato seedlings are up and at'em)
You sure talk about death a lot, somebody said last night. That's true. I think people should talk about death more than they do -- or rather, they shouldn't shrink from the topic as much as they do. But we won't discuss it. Won't make wills or buy life insurance, won't choose health care proxies, won't think about what kinds of medical care we will or will not accept at the end of our lives. Won't think about heaven, about what it must be like to cross the threshold from one life into another. Won't even say the word "die," some of us, as if talking about it might bring it on. It's too upsetting.
But "upsetting" is what happens to a pyramid of apples in the grocery store if you walk by and pluck one from the bottom of the pile: you upset them, and they roll all over the floor of the produce section. "Upset" isn't really something that happens to human beings. We were never all that set to begin with. We get sad, sure. Scared, maybe. But not "upset."
We're messy. Life is messy -- messy, and then it ends. Nothing to be "upset" about -- it's supposed to happen. We have to leave here, in order to make room for our replacements. The apples in their neat pyramid will rot if nobody buys them and eats them. They can't stay around forever.
What good is a seed? None at all, unless it falls to the ground, ceasing very soon to be anything like it was when it fell. What are your chances for remaining just as you are now? Absolutely none -- and, if you did, you'd be monstrous, a person stuck in the wrong time, a living artifact of the past struggling to stay afloat in a present and a future for which you were unequipped. Nothing stays as it is. Everything hurtles into the future, faster and faster all the time, it seems to us.
That this is sad is a matter of interpretation. The more you think and wonder about death, the less tragic it appears. Christians are the ones who assert at least once a week that this life and this world, much as we love it, is far from being all there is. That there is an immense context to us, a context of which we are almost completely unaware, waiting to be discovered and experienced.
No thanks, says the seed. I don't want to taste water and feel the sun, feel a tiny green shoot in my heart grow and grow until it bursts out into the light. I'll pass: don't want to become a great sunflower or a nodding poppy, an oak tree. Nah -- just let me stay here in my envelope with pictures of these things on the outside.
But the Gardener has other ideas. You're going to love it once you get going, he says, and presses the seed into the warm earth, sifting a little soil on top of it and pressing again. He pours a gentle shower of water on top and blesses it all. Enjoy your next chapter, he says. I know I will -- I can't wait to see what you become.