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The Laws of the Jungle

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them- Mathew 6:26

A couple of months back, we decided to spend a couple of days at a jungle resort in Karnataka. We started off from Bangalore and inevitably got caught in the heavy traffic congestion, surrounded by a sea of vehicles that sluggishly crawled forward bumper to bumper. An hour later, the roads became relatively clear as we headed out of town. Within a short time we turned into a mud path that ran through a wilderness of trees and shrubs. We were then within calling distance of our destination. As we travelled deeper into the forest, I had this uncanny feeling that we were aliens in a world that was totally different from the one we left behind. The rocky path was much more suited to the nimble deer and the wild boar than to the SUV we were travelling in, that was used to smooth, tarred roads. The whirring sound of the engine sounded strange amidst the gentle rustle of leaves and branches against the wind. We finally arrived at the resort, an idyllic spot in a forest clearing on the banks of the Cauvery, bordered by a picture perfect mountain range on the other side of the river.

We spent hours relaxing in a chair or in a hammock, just gazing at the hills and listening to the sound of the flowing river. Everything seemed to recede to a distance—tasks to be completed, accounts to be settled, plans to be designed and executed – all of this became unimportant against the permanence of the mountains that was home to so many animals and birds. Surrounding us were trees that had probably been around for more than a century, judging by the girth of their trunks. There was a deep sense of calm even as monkeys jumped from branch to branch in happy games with their kin. We had come to a land closest to the paradise God first gave to man. The inhabitants here worried only about their ‘daily bread’. Tomorrow was another day that did not need to be catered to. There were no enemies singled out for revenge, no instinct to hoard for the future, no competition to be the smartest or the richest.

The holiday was not without its fair share of anxiety. Though we were warned to keep our cottages locked to keep the monkeys at bay, they managed to find their way into one unlocked room. The inmates shooed them away immediately but one clever monkey made off with a purse stuffed with currency. Needless to say, we felt bad that the money was gone and brandished sticks at the poor creatures whenever they dared to come anywhere near us. The climax came a couple of days later when one of us decided to search the rooftop to see if we could recover some of the lost money. Sure enough, all the notes were strewn across the roof. The monkey must have examined the purse in the hope of finding a tasty morsel. Instead, all he found were pieces of paper in different colors! Well, as the saying goes, one man’s meat is another man’s (in this case ‘monkey’s’) poison.

I found the entire episode very thought-provoking. The history of mankind is dotted with instances of murder and strife for the cause of those multi-coloured notes that the monkey found worthless. Does the animal world have a far superior understanding of God’s Word and God’s plan for the Universe when compared with humankind?

Genesis 3 tells us the story of how our first parents were banished from Paradise because they ate the forbidden fruit from the tree that gave them knowledge of good and evil. What sets man apart from the innocence of the rest of creation is his own crude interpretation of what is good and what is not. We needlessly worry about our future, the security of our investments, our purchasing power and our capacity to control the future. The Lord Jesus in Mathew 6 takes examples from the birds of the air and the lilies of the field to tell us that our preoccupation with wealth accumulation, and its attendant evil actions is pagan and unbecoming of God’s children. The parable of the mustard seed is also on similar lines. The tiny mustard seed grows into a large tree and the birds find plenty of room to build their nests in its branches. How about man, built in the image and likeness of his Creator? How many of those around us can build their nests on our branches?

Over the years we have unquestioningly believed that ‘survival of the fittest’ was the law of the jungle. On the contrary, this law is much more suited to the concrete jungles we reside in. The race to be ‘fittest’ in terms of health, wealth , education and status has always been our motto and philosophy, one that has led many of us to selfish and vengeful ways. The real laws in the jungle would put our own petty principles to shame. If only we could learn these from the forest trees, the mountains and the animals, we would understand that there is no need to exploit every resource we have, to live out one simple, limited life.

The Lord assures us that the Father who takes care of the birds and flowers will surely take much more care of us. Only seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will be given to us.

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