In this Vincentian Mindwalk I would like to connect some dots between frogs, canaries and Pope Francis.
We have often heard the stories of the lessons we can learn from frogs and canaries. Now they can help us understand why Pope Francis invites us to join another month-long celebration with the world’s 2.2 billion Christians.
Lessons from a frog in a pot
As with all such lessons there are many versions. The story usually goes something like this…
If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly.
As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.
The usual moral inferred is that we wake up too late to dangers. The signs were there. But we paid no attention of them.
We’ve become like those slowly boiling frogs of legend, who get used to the rising temperature of the water instead of just jumping out.
While some among us keep hollering about how dangerous it’s getting, the majority of us in the developed world show no signs hearing uncomfortable voices.
Lesson of the canary
We also hear the adage about “the canary in a coal mine”. It tells of the unlucky plight of what is arguably one of nature’s most charming birds.
Canaries are acutely sensitive to gases such as carbon monoxide and methane that harbor in coalmines. “Canary in a coal mine” is not simply a figure of speech. In days gone by, canaries were actually used to detect gas breeches in various coal mines. If the canary stopped singing—and thus died from toxic gas inhalation—the miners knew it was time to high tail it out of the mine to save their own lives.
The story of the frog highlights being lulled to danger.
The story of the canary is about looking and taking seriously warning signs of something that is about to happen.
Celebrating the Season of Creation
Has any day gone by recently without news of some major “natural” catastrophic event?
Forest fires, hurricanes, heat waves, floods, droughts, and storms turn communities upside down, change and even end many lives.
We have been lulled like the frogs. Others, especially the poor who live in vulnerable areas, are paying with their lives. They are canaries drawing our attention to what seems to be inevitably coming.
So Christian leaders from across the world are coming together as they have for many years to officially launch the 2022 Season of Creation. This is the annual ecumenical celebration that unites the world’s 2.4 billion Christians in prayer and action for our common home.
They invite us to“Listen to the Voice of Creation,” the theme of the 2022 Season of Creation. God’s creation moans ever louder and suffers more every day amidst the ongoing climate emergency and biodiversity crisis.
Heeding the signs
- Which am I more likely to be – a lulled frog or a sacrificial canary?
- When was the last time I stopped to think about the major events that serve as “signs of the times”?
- What will I think about between the World Day of Prayer for Creation Sept. 1 and the feast of St. Francis of Assisi Oct. 4.
- Have I asked the Vincentian question “What can I, must I, do?”