Besides an inquiry into death itself, this might be the most important question in creating a human being. I am ever grateful for the internal references the stern and loving voice T.S. Eliot provides: “Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind/Cannot bear very much reality./Time past and time future/What might have been and what has been/Point to one end, which is always present. (Eliot, T. S.. Four Quartets (p. 3). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)
There is much advertisement of the present moment now, where attempts are made to commodify even being itself. Thankfully we will and can escape. Victor Frankl, among others, points the way, in this milieu: a concentrated camp of greed, hatred and delusion. That bird called being (does any name capture the experience of the moment fully?) goes and goes and goes. I am thankful for that. If I try to, or could, grasp that bird, I would do that bird and myself damage.
Thankfully, we cannot catch the bird. At best, we compress our mind into itself, as if the mind is a fist, attempting to contain and hang on to everything liquid that is beyond it, which is to say everything.
One way to pause this capitulation into compression is to simply consider beauty.
The breath is a always a good start. We take if not the whole world, at least an amazingly representative part of it, with each and every living breath. What miniscule unsensed fragrance of a flower in a rainforest 3,000 miles away, or what fetid rot of a fox upon where vultures feast just around the corner, inhabits and informs the pulse of my blood? All for the love of oxygen. That electrical force of life itself, coming from the life of plants into the life of us. Systolic. Diastolic. Thrust of arterial muscle, and rest of living fibrous venous tissues in an interplay of filling and emptying everything — every last cell and all the organelles within.
Is this not beauty? For how long a moment can we rest in it? “Go, go, go, said the bird…” Alas, just as we now exhaustion of outbreath must follow the exhilaration of inbreath, we must let our imagination of the bird go. We are so fortunate that the bird is already so far beyond the mental form within which we hold it — that we cannot limit or harm its adamantine nature.
Here is the door of liberation. If we allow for the coming and going of the bird; if its necessary migration is fully accepted as quickly and as often as every outbreath, the admitting the truth is solution: that suffering, confusion, obscuration, evaporation, rapid flight will replace and cause the disappearance of that beauteous bird, and is as necessary as its original apprehension in our mind’s eye.
Bird’s see things so differently than we. Beyond their capacity to see ultraviolet, science has recently shown that birds can physically see with their eyes the magnetic fields of the earth. North is perfect arc of dim light; east and west stretched off center lesser arcs. Words like “quantum entanglement” and “quantum coherence” enter the conversation: “Long-lived spin coherence in proteins found in the eyes of migratory birds could explain how the creatures are able to navigate along the Earth’s magnetic field with extraordinary precision.” (Physics Magazine Online, “Birds Measure Magnetic Fields Using Long-lived Quantum Coherence,” 07 Apr 2016, retrieved 03/03/2023).
That vision of vision was not in my vocabulary until yesterday. Not in my mind’s eye about the beauty, precision, and wonder of something as profound and mundane as the ability of the flighted to find their way both to home, and away from it. Which in the end is the actual home? Both. Neither.
Tritely, perhaps, I draw upon Shakespeare’s Hamlet to remind myself: “There are more wonders in heaven and earth, Horatio, than can be dreamt of in your philosophy.” It might be added that were the philosophies plundered to their psychological and neurological depths, there are deeper, more mysterious wonders to find in every explanatory and discursive thought. They point to something. Quantumly.
That need and urge to find beauty can be empowered within ourselves by transcending the reflex to grab onto it. A favorite Koan here: “That which you are seeking is causing you to seek.”
My mind cannot unravel this. But I can rest with it. Submitting to defeat in my attempt to gather all the exotic feathered friends into my birdhouse coop. No matter how big that coop is, it will not be big enough.
Go bird, please go, even though it makes me weep. I know you will return unbidden.