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Flying Humbly



God has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does YHWH require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8


Pigeons often appear nervous, and for good reason. The couple dozen of them gathered on the utility wires took off in a flock as they often do and I did as I always do when I see that, I looked for the predator. This time there was none, but within a few minutes a Mack truck of a bird came cruising down College Avenue right at the height of the perched pigeons. Naturally they flew, but this Peregrine Falcon was not interested in a meal at this time. Neither was the second one that followed a few yards behind. These hulking birds with sports car speed and maneuverability were casually passing by like they owned the place. I don’t have knowledge of the inner lives of birds, so I can’t say if they feel pride. However, I do know that we humans do. I also know that as a result of our misguided pride of place, we have interrupted the natural order to such an extent that these magnificent birds nearly disappeared from the planet. Among other catastrophes that we have created, we have destroyed habitat with what we consider development. The pigeons have adapted nicely, rarely, if ever, nesting on cliffs as we suppose their ancestors did.


Peregrines, on the other hand, needed some persuasion to live among us. Just two blocks away from where I saw them, across a road and river, there is an abandoned factory that these falcons have taken a liking to. At first, a platform with a roof convinced them to nest here. Now that they’ve discovered a broken window, they apparently are happier having the inside of the building to themselves for raising a family.


The prophet Micah famously speaks of mercy, justice, and humility. We might be tempted to see it like a checklist, but there is a connection between the three. If we understand humility in the sense of its origin from the word for earth (humus) then we might realize that true humility is knowing our place, which is within the web of existence not atop or outside of it. Thus, when we disrupt the balance, humility helps us to correct the injustice through simple acts of mercy like making a nesting site for the creatures we have harmed.


Prayer: Holy Breath, we have never been great at sacrifice, so thank you for bringing us down to earth in the reminder to walk on this earth simply loving kindness in order to do justice. Amen.

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