Monday, April 23, 2007

A bird-centered view of life

I was walking through campus and back to my house the other day –a few days before Earth Day— smelling the spring and listening to the birds, and one of the birds, a little one, chirping away, was perched above me on a telephone wire. I said, “hello, bird!” but of course the bird was up there and probably didn’t hear me, or care, which was just fine because it made me think: when we humans look at what we know and perceive, thinking that our way of perceiving and seeing is the only way, we are not in our right minds. The world looks entirely different from a bird’s point of view –I am curious to know how, but never will know. One thing I can do, though, is imagine that point of view enough to displace or de-center myself. I can imagine enough to realize that the big lumbering human below who said “hello, bird!” is of not much importance to the bird, and that this is as it should be, because the world does not revolve around humans, much as we have thought of it that way. Theology, philosophy, physics, and all manner of other fields are finally telling us otherwise and it took the environmental crisis for Western philosophy and religion to wake up and begin reformulating their vision of the universe.

Of course I like it when I say hello to a cat or a dog and the animal talks back, or when the deer come out of the woods and we look at each other, curiously and quietly. But there is something healthy in saying “hello, bird!” and not getting back an answer, or even the slightest notice, and realizing that the ecosystem functions just fine without us humans, thank you very much, and sometimes fares worse because of the way we walk the earth.

Which is not to say that birds don’t speak to us sometimes.

Still, we would do well to consider the bird-centered view of the world. Regularly, as a spiritual discipline.


Iris said...

Be careful, considering the bird-centered world is a slippery slope. Trust me, I'm a birder!

Love the Gray Catbird photo. They really are cool looking with that little cap.

Jane R said...

Isn't it great! And I just saw a recent photo of yours of another Gray Catbird. They are pretty cool. I think this one was the bird I saw and to which I said hello -- at least I looked for the closest I could find, from memory. But I may have seen a somewhat smaller bird. Memory is a tricky thing.

We have lots of birds here on the Guilford campus so I have been enjoying seeing and listening to them. They've been really busy flitting around and singing and chirping since spring sprang. You should come take some photos here sometime.

Haven't seen goslings yet but it seems to me it was right around this week last year that they showed up.