Some time ago I was very impressed by a PowerPoint presentation that someone sent me on the Internet. It told the story of the bald eagle who, in midlife, at a time when his beak and talons are overgrown (at about 40 years of age), flies to a high peak and smashes his beak on a rock until it falls off. The eagle then waits for the beak to grow back. When it does, the eagle can resume taking care of his talons and cleaning himself.
What I have discovered is that the story is a myth or legend meant to teach us about choosing life. Another example of someone choosing life is the story of Aron Ralston who some years ago now while canyoneering found himself in a very narrow passage and his arm became pinned between two boulders when one of the boulders shifted. He was unable to call for help and so spent several days drinking what little water he had and hoping against hope almost that he would be rescued. After five days with his arm still pinned down, he realized that his hand was dying -- the skin was beginning to fall off. He began planning how he could break and then cut off his arm and thereby save his life. His story was featured on Dateline a couple of weeks ago and is the subject of the movie 127 Hours. Aron did make it out after cutting off his own arm. He said he felt elation (despite great pain) that he doesn't think he will feel again once he was freed from the rock.
Both stories, the legend of the eagle and Aron Ralston's dramatic gesture of removing his own arm, epitomize for me the sometimes difficult decisions we are called to make in life. Most of the time they are not as life threatening as Aron's was, but they can call for enormous courage all the same.
This past weekend we heard these words from Deuteronomy at Evening Prayer: ". . . I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you . . . may live." (Deut. 30:19). When was there a time that you chose life? What was that like?