Can Something so Beautiful Smell so Bad?

Posted on June 12, 2008 by ELCA World Hunger

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Have you ever smelled the flower Dracunculus vulgaris, also known as the Voodoo or Snake Lily? Well if you haven’t I suggest you stay far, far away from this elegant, yet very putrid smelling plant.

This morning I had the “great” fortune of smelling a mature Dracunculus vulgaris. The closest smell I can think of to explain the horrific wiff is in the words of an avid gardener who states it’s smell is like “dungy rotten meat”. What a perfect description.

So my question is, how can this elegantly simple and exotic flower smell so terrible?

It leads me back to our first creation story when God created the world in seven days and confirmed it’s creation with three words: it is good. These very same words were also used by God in his final confirmation of humanity’s creation: it is good.

The idea of God creating a Dracunculus vulgaris is not hard to grasp, especially when he created humanity. Just like the dungy, rotten, and meaty smelling flower, we, as humans, often reek of this smell as well. In all of our elegance, talent, and dominion over the creatures of the earth, we destroy, disable, humiliate, and possess. And yet this smell is not a part of our patronage, it is not a part of our lineage, it has been created by us and does not proliferate and prosper.

A Dracunculus vulgaris must smell “bad” in order to prosper the world. It must attract flies in order to be pollinated and produce seedlings to be carried off by the wind or other insects to be planted in the earth. This is their way of being good and owning up to their end of the creation story.

Unlike this flower, we as humans who are created in the image of God, have a choice in deciding how we own up to the creation story. But rather than listen and follow, we tend to lead and negate God’s call. So in our stink, we lose sight of the world and are unable to see, fix, amend, or eradicate the hunger, diseases, inequalities, suffering, and poverty many in the world experience.

As a World Hunger Intern for the ELCA this year, I am excited to be a part of a community who in their faith work strive to alleviate hunger and poverty. This experience will afford me the opportunity to explore my vocation and to learn from the global religious and secular communities’ response in targeting some of the world’s greatest needs.

And though our human mission is more in depth than the Dracunculus vulgaris, our missions are not that different. Just as this flower must do, we must retain our elegance despite the stink we release and work to ensure our seedlings take root, are carried off, and create anew.

(To view a Dracunculus vulgaris please visit the website provided in the Reference section).

References
The Garden of Paghat the Ratgirl. http://www.paghat.com/voodoolily.html

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