Outside our back door there is a tree and in the overlap of its coniferous branches is a small, obscured, protected space where a robin has built a nest.
In the nest, two chicks have hatched, and the robin spends her days as a kind of avian FedEx courier bringing worms and grubs and dropping them into tiny beaks that never seem to close with satiety.
My wife spends her early mornings and evenings standing unobtrusively on a chair photographing the comings and goings and the constant maternal care. When I come out on the porch, by contrast, through some shimmering signal shot through Creation, the robin evidently knows a stranger is at hand and flies around the yard in ways clearly designed to lead a designated predator—me—away from her nest.
If I, Predator, am going to eat, the robin logic seems to be, I am going to have to eat her—not her offspring. And, of course, that means I will have to chase and catch her first. My back steps have become a gateway to the Las Vegas of tactical sacrifice. Roll them bones.
What the activity ultimately affirms is the in-built reality that life is, above all things and everything, about life. Its propagation. Its protection. Its passing on. It’s an affirmation so elemental that robins—not known as birds that have contributed significantly to theology, philosophy, mathematics, or astrophysics—grasp it as naturally as they grasp worms in their beaks.
Meanwhile, 200 kilometres from my back porch, in Ottawa, the leader of the federal Liberal party decrees that would-be candidates must not issue a peep of the belief that aborting 100,000 unborn Canadian children a year is worthy of serious public policy discussion. And 250 kilometres in the other direction from my back porch, in Quebec City, the National Assembly is poised to pass into law this week legislation allowing the old, the weak, the infirm, the despondent, to be given a piqûre of some deadly substance to terminate their lives prematurely under the pretext of something euphemistically called medical aid in dying.
We long ago evolved beyond the kill-or-be-killed state that governs the life of the robin outside my back door. Yet we have forgotten the natural truth that she, thought-free bird, carries in the very structures of her cells.
Are we doomed by such forgetting, by growing so distant from what naturally is? I would say so. Others obviously disagree. What is beyond dispute is that we are, on what amounts to a predator’s whim, fully prepared to roll them bones.