So many things are always going on beneath the surface. It takes great people to recognize and study these subsurface happenings: Freud and Jung, in human psychology; scientists who recently discovered a bacterium living 12 miles beneath earth's surface, when the former record was a mere 1.5; and Charles Darwin.
Most people don't know that Darwin, famous for his On the Origin of Species (1859), spent most of his career studying earthworms. For 44 years, he shook them, tickled them, and played Bach to them. His entire family was drawn into the work. They studied such minutiae as how one could tell which side was the head and which the tail; whether worms have gender; whether they could, in fact, see; what stimuli would attract or repel them; etc. By 1880 as Darwin collected his material together for a book, he wrote: "My whole soul is absorbed with worms just at present!" And, in fitting tribute to his subjects: "worms have much bigger souls than anyone would suppose." Thus was born his hardest-won treatise: The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms.
There is no jest in me as I write this. By Darwin's estimate, an acre of garden soil contains about 50,000 worms, and without them our soil would be useless for vegetation. We walk about on our planet admiring its greenly fronds and buttercups, but the hard workers beneath the surface are just that. Unseen and unnoticed, de facto and imperative.
What lies beneath the surface of our neighbor? We know the inner complexity of life; its joys and sorrows, its confusions and fragilities. We know our own internal world of questions; but as surface-dwellers, are so much more ready to comment on what we see than to enquire on what we do not. "Ah--a new haircut! And I see your yard work! The children are so tall... you have much to be proud of."
These are good conversation starters, but consider, like Darwin, going beneath the surface when the opportunity arises. Past the small talk, we should be discovering the meat and matter of one another's souls: understanding how a person feels about things, what they are hoping for, and how long, perhaps, they have been in realizing their hopes. It is in such connections that bonds are made, and the real importance of life uncovered. Darwin was right: what lies beneath the surface is what makes life possible. May the soil and humus of your own thoughts, and the fertility of your minds, be enriched and made ready to grow in Christ Jesus,