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At the Movies: Wings of Life

Anchor Lee

It’s winter in my hemisphere, which means it’s PUZZLE SEASON! While everyone else is grumbling about being shut up indoors, I sip a soothing cup of Comfort and Joy tea and sort the straight edges from the center pieces, grouping like-colored pieces into piles as I go.

The puzzle I’m working on right now is one of the more intricate images I’ve worked on. It is a butterfly collector’s assortment of butterfly and moth species, which appears to be scattered on a desk with photos, notecards, diagrams, and illustrations of other butterflies. This lepidopterist is fairly disorganized. Some of his specimens appear to be alive, balancing on magnifying glasses or poised on display frames. Sprawled underneath all of these bright and diverse fairy creatures is an ancient map of the globe, which has served as a way to orient myself while navigating the piles of disassembled butterfly wings.

Preserved under glass and captured in this photo, it’s easy to admire the butterfly for its beauty and detail. But flying things’ aesthetics are just the beginning of their magnificence.

Wings of Life

Wings of Life (2013) © DisneyNature. Image Courtesy of IMDb.

In my winter slumber, I also love learning about the wild and wonderful world just beyond my window. Someday, when it is not so cold and not so wet again, I will find a new place to explore, but for now, I will have to settle for the transportation afforded me through the television.

Wings of Life is a 2013 DisneyNature documentary narrated by Meryl Streep, whose quiet, slow, and gentle voice balanced over classical music soothed me right to sleep, several times, while watching Wings of Life. When I wasn’t snoozing and then startling awake to rewind to where I last remembered watching, I was captivated by the intimate cinematography that captured the private and critical lives of butterflies, bees, bats, hummingbirds, and flowers as they work together to create and sustain the beautiful world that gives us life. 

Trust me, you have never been this close to insects and flowers. Not even Alice in Wonderland or A Bug’s Life gets you this up close and personal to these creatures.

Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing

At the beginning of Creation, God made a woman from the rib of a man while he slept. David took items from Saul’s camp while they were sleeping. Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal, insisting that perhaps their god was simply asleep and must be awakened. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 13 about an enemy coming and sowing weeds among the wheat while everyone slept.

In the last hours of Jesus’ earthly ministry with his disciples, he went to the garden of Gethsemane. Peter, James, and John followed him until Jesus asked them to keep watch with him while he went a little farther to pray. Three times in his moment of anguish and pleading before the Father, Jesus returned to his disciples only to find them sleeping.

So much happens when we’re not paying attention.

My own sleepiness while watching Wings of Life was not enough for me to miss the miracle of what happens all around us to sustain creation when we’re not even paying attention. If I don’t pay attention, though, I might miss how my sleepy and thoughtless actions impact my sources of life. I have to be awake to the realities of what is happening in the world around me, alert to injustice and discrimination, aware of damage and disregard for the creation we’ve been given to steward and protect.

Wings of Life zooms in on the tiny creatures that keep both weeds and wheat growing. They were there in the garden the day God formed woman from man. They were there at Saul’s camp when David stole away in the night. They caused the trees to grow that made the wood for Elijah’s fire. They pollinated the garden of Gethsemane.

Image: Jacqueline O’Gara

There are billions of these pollinators around the globe, quietly going about the business of our survival, which is enough to inspire wonder, but underneath that collection of creatures there’s even more happening, more programming of instinct and creativity, a complex network of interspecies collaboration and dependence. It is God’s World, showcasing for us the beauty and complexity of the type of God we worship. The one-anotherness of God’s Word is baked into all of creation. Everything has to love one another, rely on one another, and depend on one another for one another’s very survival.

If I fall asleep to the beauty and majesty of all that is happening around me, I miss out on the wonder of life, the interconnected purpose of life, the holy and sacred beauty of life. When I look closely at the puzzle of butterfly pieces, I see underneath the cartographer’s handiwork, pointing me in the direction of restoration, and showing me how it is all held together. In puzzles, in Scripture, in creation, and in Wings of Life, his handiwork is evident.

Let me be awake to witness it.

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