Saturday, November 3, 2012
Of Birds, Music, and Creation.
What on earth is this blog? What do Birds, Music and Creation have to do with with each other? These are my three great passions. They are the things which define me as a human being. They provide the context for my life and the lens through which nearly all of my relationships exist.
Of Birds , I say,they are extraordinary creatures that we so often overlook and take for granted. In a world full of mammals, they posses a quality that is so alien and ancient. They are the great survivors, the dinosaurs that beat the odds, that looked at the tough road through history and said, "Yes, we can." They are beings, large and small, that are both magnitudes more intelligent than most would ever assume and uncommonly warm and affectionate. They posses the remarkable flexibility to allow us, their predators, into their flock and show us in new ways about living and loving. The are both hunter and hunted, vicious and gentle, resilient and fragile.
They are mysterious creatures that, upon close examination, the uninitiated mammal might guess were from another world. They have strange barbs that poke through their skins, growing long and sharp before being split open and burst forth with iridescent feathers, which themselves are extremely delicate while being immensely strong all the same. They have a respiratory system that is so ingenious and complex by mammalian standards that it is hard to imagine how it might have ever evolved. Cellophane-like airbag structures positioned all around their bodies extending into their bones, gather clean air and receive stale. Lungs that are little more than densely fibrous tubes through which air only flows one way, always clean and fresh for maximum efficiency, turbo charge their bodies with oxygen, allowing some birds to cruise at altitudes higher than most airplanes. All of this, running without a diaphram, using instead a keel bone that swings in and out to create low pressure inside their bodies.
They have an amazing capacity for gentleness and forgiveness; for trust, and for empathy. Their eyes are large and full of soul, pinning openen and closed like a camera lens each time they are enthralled in you or a toy that fascinates them. Their eyes are windows into an old soul. You can see them processing information in curious and thoughtful ways as they gaze into your eye. They express affection by allo-preening your hair or your beard, or even your eyelashes. Creatures with powerful beaks gently and deftly fussing with each tiny hair, setting it in just the right place for you. They are protective and jealous, chasing off rivals for your affection and shielding you from perceived danger. A good friend of mine owns a Catalina Macaw named "Sheerah." Upon first meeting Sheerah, she was perched in front of her owner on the owner's arm. As I neared, she threw open her wings and leaned across my friend's chest shielding her from my "attack" with her own body. Remarkably, they know of that kind of selflessness that is difficult even for humans to embrace sometimes.
Of Music, I contend there is such a vast body of work that has already been written that I should not even begin to believe that my few lines of prose here could add add much of anything to expand our consciousness of its power and wonder. It is a language of frequency, that seems to transcend culture, species and time. Carl Segan hoped even solar systems as music was one of the largest components of the gold plated records he made sure were sent along with our Voyager probes which are now on the verge of reaching that great perpetual abyss of interstellar space, messengers to the stars and the future that may well bear witness to our existence, like epistles to the cosmos, eons after humanity has long since passed into the ages, along with all of the other creatures that have bowed their final performance on the earthly stage.
Music has that slippery quality, that Heisenbergian rebelliousness that refuses to be, to function one way. It is both logical and illogical, rational and irrational, emotional and stoic, tangible and intangible, objective and subjective and this can all apply to the same composition. It is the quest of the young, the aspiration of the amateur a tool to the successful, the hobby of the masses, the career of some, and the subject of true mastery for only the most dedicated and brilliant of our species. It is appreciated by many species other than ours and forms the rudimentary form of expression for many birds, mammals, and even insects. Watching my birds dance to a particular piece of music that they enjoy is proof enough for me of music's almost magical qualities that allows us to communicate in some way across the great divide of time to those flighted creatures that have not shared a common ancestor with us for millions and millions of years. It is perhaps its in-concrete nature, its resistance to the transmission of discreet ideas that makes it a universal language, touching the hearts and minds of creatures of every kind. How they perceive it is anyones guess. It is even hard to deduce what meaning each individual human derives from a single piece of music, much less another species.
What I'm positive of, in regard to music, is that it has the power to transform. It can soothe the soul. It can transmute emotion and bring us into a state of frenetics when we were calm just moments before. It can reform the frown into a smile. It can lift the heavy burden of living and allow the soul to soar when once it was held down by sorrow. It can be a vehicle for theoretical exploration. It can be an unequaled canvas for expressing mastery and creativity. It is perhaps one of the deepest forms of divine transmission at our disposal, allowing us to commune with God in a way more dependable and immediate than almost any other.
Of Creation, I continually find myself frozen in wondrous contemplation. That such a wondrous thing could be for us to explore, enjoy, and care for is a miracle of miracles. At every level one finds wonder. From the vast galactic web that stretches to the edges of the cosmos, to inner workings of the atom itself, there is an entire universe to explore and at which to marvel. That such complex systems can carry on effortlessly, as if the simple machinery of a wind-up toy, will leave one in stunned amazement if one stops for a moment to ponder that wonder. All manner of substances and creatures, rocks and water, dirt and air, birds and fish, insects and worms, lions and buffalo, dogs and cats, humans and leeches, butterflies and wasps, bees and ants, iguanas and spiders, all filling a niche in the machinery of existence. All just as unlikely as the next. Each as remarkable as anything in the universe. The storm bands of Jupiter and the Rings of Saturn present no more wonder than the common cold and the mouse, all of them remarkably complex systems displayed as the simplest of inevitabilities, belying the extraordinary complexity that makes each of them possible.
Creation is the testament to the creator, the wisdom of the ages, the manifestation of the wondrous power of God. That is not to say that the earth was created in seven days, or that it was created over billions of years. The truth is that humans today can't make concrete statements about anything that happened more than a few years before their own lifetimes. Whether God created the heavens and the earth in seven days, or set the mechanism in action billions of years ago, it doesn't change the miracle of it all, for even being able to conceive a creation that unfolds over such vast amounts of time and with the unfathomable number of possible variables is truly a task of divine proportions in and of itself.
Pondering creation need not create a conflict between religion and science. Ultimately, science unravels the immense complexity and unimaginable cleverness of God's handiwork. Science is our window into the mind of God. To understand creation is in someway to understand God, if for nothing more than to reveal the truly divine otherness that separates humanity and God.
We live in a time when the relationship between humanity and the divine creation is more important than ever. As there becomes more and more people on the planet, we place the entire system in strain and imbalance. We must be innovative and resourceful in how we go forward into the future, to preserve the life that still shares our home with us and honor our charge to be the gardeners of the garden. Important questions will be asked of us by that very creation in the future and we must be ready with answers. I believe that one of them is reconciliation ecology, which seeks to reweave humans into the fabric of creation. So often we separate ourselves from the natural world around us and try to preserve it with that same separation. Reconciliation Ecology seeks to bring us back into the fold as an integral part of the natural system, not by going barefoot and living as hunter gatherers once again, but by finding ways to make our current reality one of productive coexistence. It seeks to end the haves and the have nots of ecology. It seeks to have cake and eat it too. I will doubtless be speaking on this topic on this blog along with the other great loves in my life.
So there you have it. I've tried to spell out the spirit of what is to follow in this blog. My posts will reflect these values and will cover these topics. I hope that together we can explore the wonders that surround us everyday and learn to live in a state of perpetual gratitude and blessing, respecting all those people and creatures that surround us, lifting them up and praising the Creator of all this wonder.