Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Losing Nemo

MSRP stands for Music, Sports, Religion and Politics.  These were the main topics of conversation that I envisioned for this blog.  As I scroll through the previous discussions, I see that the ‘R’ topic is conspicuously underrepresented.  This should not be surprising, given that religion can be the 3rd rail of friendly relationships.  I heard a sermon on Sunday, however, that struck me as worthy of a mention.  It is rare that something from the pulpit inspires me to write, and even rarer that it inspires me to write without a hint of disagreement with the speaker or the message.  The moral of the story on this particular Sunday seemed relevant in these divisive times.

The priest told the story of a boy who won 4 goldfish at a carnival.  The boy’s father could see the excitement in his son’s eyes, and he vowed to do whatever it took to keep those fish alive and thriving.  The father knew that the fish would need an aquarium, but he had little money.  After some searching, he found a tank, a light and a filter at a garage sale for only $10.  It wasn’t in the best condition, but the father was determined to make that fish tank shine.  He carried it into his basement workshop and scrubbed the glass and trim with a special cleaner inside and outside until looked new again.  He worked on it tirelessly for most of the afternoon, and the results of his hard work paid off.  His son was thrilled, and by evening, the 4 fish were happily swimming in their new home.

The joy of that afternoon was replaced with sadness the next morning.  One fish was floating lifeless on the top of the water.  By the 2nd night, 2 more had died, and after only 3 days in the tank that the father had prepared with such passion and sweat, the last fish floated to the surface.

The father and son were determined to find out what had gone so terribly wrong for the fish that they loved, so they called an expert.  After reviewing the events of the past few days with the owner of the local pet shop, the problem was quickly identified.  The father, in his enthusiasm for the project and his love of his son and the defenseless little fish, had used a harsh cleaning solution on the aquarium, and the cleaning chemicals mixed in with the tank water.  The chemicals that had cleaned the tank had killed the fish.

The priest then compared zealous Catholics to the father in the story – full of good intentions, confident in their righteousness, and unflinching in their drive to create a world that is scrubbed clean and thoroughly disinfected.  Catholics, he said, like the father in the story, can sometimes be too harsh and abrasive in methods, and in the rush to cleanse, they may actually be discouraging the spirits that they are trying to foster and grow in the faith.  He closed with the famous quote about attracting more flies with the sweetness of honey than the bitterness of vinegar.  Hmmm… 

In these modern days when matters of faith are politicized by both parties (and many world leaders), I wonder how many curious, vibrant, and innocent fish are having their spirits silently poisoned and killed by today’s zealots of all denominations.

As Nemo’s father once said, “KEEP SWIMMING!”

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