Monday, July 21, 2008

Starfish and sparrows

Faith and hope.

To me, that is always what starfish and sparrows have represented. Or at least, they have since the sixth grade when we read Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L'Engle (awesome book). The other day, I was trying to figure out which represented what. I saw a sparrow flying, and that kicked off the thinking.

I guess I should start by defining what faith and hope mean to me, respectively. Faith is trust. Hope is belief, or choosing to believe. Now some might say that they really are the same thing...or that faith is belief moreso than hope. Those are valid points of view. Mine just happens to be different. Faith is an action, hope an attitude.

Did you know that sparrows mate for life? Well, I don't know that they do in actuality, but in literary tradition they do. To me, for a little bird that faces all of the dangers in the world--hawks, cars, windows--to mate for life, takes hope. A choice to believe that their mate will return safely to them everyday, that they will make a life together. These little birds live with hope.

Starfish then represent faith. It's not a default delegation, but rather has it's own reasoning too. I once heard the story (as many people have, I'm sure) of the little girl walking along the beach, throwing beached starfish back into the waves to save them. An older man came up and asked her if she thought she could really make a difference...after all, there were hundreds of starfish on that beach. The girl looked at the starfish she was holding, looked back at the man, and flung the starfish out into the water. As it splashed back into the waves, she said quietly "I made a difference to that one." Ok, so I know the moral of the story is that every act of kindness makes a difference, no matter how limited or small in scope. That is not the purpose of my retelling the story though. It seems to me, those starfish would have to have a lot of faith...trusting that someday, someone would throw them back into the ocean. Even though the odds are against them, starfish choose to trust in the good in the world, and in the individual. Thus, starfish live with faith.

That might not be the deepest analysis of why sparrows represent hope and starfish represent faith, but then it doesn't really need to be deep. And yes, it anthropomorphizes sparrows and starfish completely, but I'm allowed to do that too. It is, after all, my brain, and my reasoning.

To make a connection to real life, I think marriage requires both a starfish and a sparrow outlook. In marriage, you believe, hope that you and your spouse will remain safe in this life, and that the two of you will make a wonderful life together. You choose to trust that your spouse will keep your heart safe, honor their vows, and support you as you walk through life together. And vice versa.

Of course, marriage has other aspects than just these two--things like love, the deep, abiding kind, respect, commitment, etc. And of course, the greatest of all of these is love. But I think faith and hope are tied for a close second.

Anyways, I was just thinking.

***On a slightly morbid note, our bird dog caught a sparrow mid-flight the other day, and snapped its neck. It was a great catch, and I was a proud mama, even though I started crying like a little girl.***


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