Recently biologists were tagging sturgeon in the Detroit River. The procedure was pretty routine. Catch the sturgeon in a basket, weigh, measure, tag, and release. Imagine their amazement when they hauled up a 240 pound sturgeon! She (yes, it was a female) was 6′ 10″ long with a circumference of nearly 4 feet! They estimated she was over 100 years old!
That news item got me to thinking about longevity and transience. What lasts and what passes away quickly? And what effect does longevity and transience have on us in our daily life?
Some things last a long time—like that lady sturgeon. But other animals live even longer. One particular koi fish named Hanako lived to be 226 years old. But that’s nothing compared to Greenland sharks which routinely live for 300-500 years. Their secret? They take life very slowly—swimming only .07 mph (a lesson for us speedaholic humans!) The oldest known clam lived to celebrate its 507th birthday. But the gold medal for longevity in the animal world goes to (drum roll please…) the jellyfish! They are almost immortal. If an adult jellyfish experiences injury or stress, he or she reverts back to its polyp stage and starts his or her life all over again!
Other things besides animals last a long time. Take plants. The oldest known tree is the Great Basin Bristlecone pine tree—4,852 years old. And there’s a certain honey mushroom in Oregon that is also thousands of years old. (Maybe its longevity can be attributed to its “sweet” name!) Some inanimate things on earth have lasted a long time too. The Grand Canyon is 70 million years old. Earth itself is 4.543 billion years old. But that’s short compared to the the oldest star in our galaxy, the Milky Way. That star is known as HE 1523-0901 (some astronomer should give it a name!) and it is about 13.2 billion years old.
But what things pass away quickly? In the animal world, a house mouse lives for year, a dragon fly 4 months, a worker bee 5 weeks (they literally work themselves to death—a lesson for workaholic humans), a Luna moth one week (it has no mouth so it can’t eat), and mayflies only 24 hours. Other things pass quickly. Cherry blossoms on a tree last about a week whereas daylilies (as their name implies) bloom for only one day before they begin to fade. And fireworks last for only a few seconds, just long enough to elicit a few “oohs” and “aahs.”
What effect does longevity and transience have on us? We could conclude, if it doesn’t last long, it’s not worth much. Sneakers from a discount store that last only one week are pretty worthless. But who can put a dollar value on a sunset that lasts for only a few minutes? We could also conclude, if it doesn’t last long, it’s worth more. The fact that the cherry tree blossoms are so short-lived makes them more precious than if they bloomed all year long.
Today you might want to reflect on how longevity and transience effect your life. Name some things that are transient and pass quickly, but you value very much: time playing with a grandchild… a walk with a friend… a hot cup of morning coffee… a short poem… a vase of cut flowers… a favorite line from scripture… a relaxing glass of wine… a cherished song… Then reflect on the things that have lasted a long time in your life that you value: a certain relationship… your health… a family heirloom… an old tree you pass by on your way to work… an old family photograph.
Let us conclude this reflection with this short prayer:
God of all time and space, I thank you for things that last and for things that pass away quickly. May I never take either of them for granted. Give me the grace to appreciate longevity and endurance. Help me to respect things and people simply because they have been around longer than I have and, therefore, they might have some wisdom to share with me.
At the same time, give me the grace to appreciate the transient, the passing, the fleeting. Help me to notice and treasure the things and people who come into my life for a short time and yet may leave a lasting impression. I ask for these graces through Jesus who appreciated the long lasting and the brief. He frequently hiked up into the age-old hills of Galilee… he admired the fleeting wildflowers bobbing in the fields… he enjoyed a good meal with all kinds of people—those he had known for years and those he had just met… and, the night before he died, he chose to pray in the garden among his long-time friends, the ancient olive trees of Gethsemane. Amen.
For reflection: I invite you to share with us some of the transient and enduring things you value. Just add a comment below.
Happy Memorial Day! Today let us remember and honor all those who died while serving in the Armed Forces. May we never forget the supreme sacrifice they and their loved ones made that we might have the many freedoms we experience today.
PS: A big thank you for your prayers for the virtual retreat last week sponsored by the Heartland Center for Spirituality in Great Bend, KS. And thank you to all the wonderful women who made the retreat! It was a privilege walking with you! I am especially beholding to Renee, Ann, and Brenda for inviting me and helping me out in countless ways!
It is Sunday night as I type this part of my blog. I just saw on the news that singer B. J. Thomas has passed away. He was 78. His most popular song was “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” But he also had some popular Christian albums too. So I decided to play my favorite Christian song of his that he recorded many years ago: “I Need To Be Still.” When we think of prayer, we often think of giving ourselves time to love God. But in this song Thomas reminds us that prayer can be giving God time to love us!
I welcome your responses to the reflection, the pictures, or the song below! We all love hearing from you!