One of my favorite movies, and, according to my family, the worst movie ever made, is “Mars Attacks.” This 1999 comedy starred major film characters such as Glen Close, Jack Nicholson, Annette Bening, Pierce Bosnan, and a host of cameos featuring other stars who were famous in 1999. In the movie, the Martians, who can only speak “Ack, Ack” in response to anything, dispel any possibility of being peaceful, and of course, world war ensues. When you hear about the ending, you will understand its potential for being the “worst.”
Ok, switch gears briefly. Lewis Thomas, a naturalist, frequently wrote about symbiosis...the situation in which two kinds of life forms live together in a relationship that is usually advantageous to both parties. His essays describe the strange and marvelous symbiotic relationships of many things...natural and necessary relationships without which the world as we know it would not survive.
There are thousands of examples. Consider the sea anemone which hitchhikes on the back of the hermit crab, snagging and eating the crab’s leftovers, yet using its barbed tentacles to prevent the crab from being eaten by octopuses and other predators.
The Oxpecker and similar types of birds, and the rhino, water buffalo, giraffe, and a number of other large animals also coexist in a symbiotic relationship. This bird not only rids the animal of parasites but also makes a warning noise when predators are near, while the animal provides a ready supply of insects, pests, and parasites...an infinite source of nutrition for the Oxpecker.
Another symbiotic relationship is necessary for the three-toed sloth. Sloth hair is long and coarse, and each contains a number grooves or cracks that promote inhabiting by a wide variety of organisms such as moths, beetles, and cockroaches, which in turn give the sloth nutrients via diffusion and absorption through hair and skin.
The plover bird and the crocodile offer another example. The plover bird flies inside the crocodile’s open and waiting mouth to get a meal of leftover meat from between the crocodile’s teeth, whereas the crocodile gets his teeth cleaned, preventing infection.
And ostriches and zebras often travel together, because the ostrich has poor senses of hearing and smell, whereas zebras have bad eyesight, so their togetherness lets them warn each other of potential danger. Even the arctic fox relies on the caribou to expose vegetation and sub~ice small mammal species during certain times of the year.
And for humans, consider the lactobacillus dwelling inside our bodies, without which we could not survive. Yes, it can be correctly argued that there are uncountable instances in which the two disparate kinds in nature...and in humans...don’t get along, and that the typical ending is that one does indeed prey on the other, with the result in the animal kingdom being destruction or death, and the result in the human relationships being war, starvation, destruction, repression, and regression.
So...back to the movie, and what do Mars Attacks and symbiosis and this devotional have in common? As the Martians begin the experimentation and slaughter of humans, Jack Nicholson’s most famous line is a frustrated “Why can’t we all just...get along?” Amazing how timely that question is today. Even without the Martians, we let differences in race, customs, religion, and politics divide us, make us fearful and suspicious of the “other”. We resist the combining of our lives with little regard for the benefits from simply loving our potential neighbors. The supposedly “dumb” animals do it...dissimilar species living together to the benefit of both. Yet it seems “intelligent” humans cannot.
Maybe that bad movie had the right idea as demonstrated in its happy ending. The Martians are finally annihilated because hearing Slim Whitman singing “Indian Love Call” is deadly to them. Broadcast through roving loudspeakers on trucks and campers throughout the world, the message that defeats them is obvious...not the singing, but what the song is about...Love.
Holy One, open our hearts and minds to the good we can do for others by loving all your children...all your children...all your creation. Amen.