Friday, October 12, 2007
Crashing Birds and Another Venue
As I readied for work this morning, I heard a loud "thump" coming from the living room. I recognized it as one of the wild birds that frequent our feeder crashing clumsily into our front picture window. It happens with some frequency, this kamikaze throttling. Thankfully, we’ve only had two birds actually die from their crashing into the glass - typically, they simply shake their stunned selves off and take to the skies again.
Traits of evolution and adaptation account for why birds fly into our windows. Birds don’t see things as we – and other mammals – do. Most have eyes set on either side of their head, to give them a wide field of vision – which helps them to see predators and survive. This advantage, though, comes at the expense of the depth perception that results from the overlapping fields of view produced by eyes that are narrow set. Because of their lack of depth perception, birds are unable to recognize reflections as such. They believe the reflections to be sky, clouds, trees, birdfeeders, or other birds and they believe they can fly into those things – or attack them, as the case may be. The way birds perceive color only furthers the trouble between these flying creatures and our windows. Colors are brighter and more intense seen through the eyes of a bird – so reflections don’t have the same muted, faded coloration that they have for humans and other mammals. To a bird, a reflection might have the same lifelike quality that a well-conceived and well-painted portrait has for us.
I thought of my bird friends and their window attacks this morning on my way to work. And I thought of how I am so much like them – in some ways. I mean, I’ve never walked into a window thinking I was headed toward something other than glass – but I’ve certainly spent parts of my life striving for things that, in the end, turned out to be stunning, disconcerting, disappointing, and unexpected. I’ve certainly flown like the wind toward something that looked attractive, beautiful, or threatening – I’ve flown toward those things with intensity – wanting to have them or to destroy them - and in the end hit my head – or my heart - on a figurative pane of glass. And, much like a bird who has already flown into a hundred windows or more, my very nature – the way I’m made – keeps me from learning my lesson. Over and over, I strive for the reflection - of myself, of the boundless sky, of a world that seems brighter and bigger and better, and I land up crashing – hard – into a boundary I couldn’t have fathomed.
I wish sometimes that I could change the way the vision of my heart works – that I could put up defenses against my own desire for more, my own natural tendency to see so much of the world, my own inability to know when something is not what it seems. And I wish, sometimes, that people would pull down the blinds of their hearts, and that ideas could shade themselves more effectively, making boundaries more clear to me, not tempting my crash into something I couldn’t see. My heart hurts from the bumping, thumping – and I fear, that one day, I’ll crash and not recover – that my heart will simply wither and cease to fly altogether. As much as I don’t like crashing, I believe that a critical injury that would keep my heart from soaring – and the inevitable and resultant shut down of my heart, would be far worse.
So, I’ll fly like the birds (What else would I do? Like the birds, it’s all my heart knows, that state of flight) – taking as much care as I can to shirk my natural and somewhat dangerous tendencies. I’ll do my best to look before I leap into something that might be simply an illusion. And when – (because it’s really not an if, it’s a when) – I crash, I’ll do my best to get up and fly again – and I’ll remember that unlike the birds – I get more out of the crashes than a stunned moment – I get a lifetime of experiences – both good and bad – that feed my soul.
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