The Sky is Awash in Birds

I woke late, fed Phaedra, showered, shaved, got dressed, and made coffee. Now, the time is almost 7 and I am just now attempting to sort out what is on my mind. As usual, I am thinking about you. Yes, you. Writing in the first and second person (???) allows me to engage with you directly, without interference from whatever this day will bring. In my present state of mind, I could carry on a private conversation with Aesop or Khalil Gibran or Abraham Lincoln; no one would be the wiser. Magical thinkin—a term I first remember encountering in Joan Didion’s exceptional book, The Year of Magical Thinking—has a long and storied history. Sigmund Freud believed magical thinking arose from cognitive development factors. Bronisław Malinowski wrote about a form of magical thinking in which believers think words and sounds have the ability to directly affect the world (“step on a crack, break your mother’s back,” etc.). The literature is rife with theories about magical thinking (as if I have conducted an extensive review of the literature on the subject…yeah). It is entirely possible for a person to quickly and completely get wrapped up in a subject about which little previous thought had been given. Witness me, as I scamper down the rabbit hole, exploring magical thinking. Okay, though. That’s enough.


Today, the fifth Sunday of the month, brings Music on Barcelona back to our church. On those rare fifth Sundays, neither worship nor insight services are held, the time being given instead to musical celebration. From jazz to blues to popular tunes, musical guests and others enliven the sanctuary with sounds. I dress casually for church; I feel more casual when “church” is replaced by music untethered to religious messages.


Moments ago, I glanced up through the windows in front of my desk to see a bird alight on a high branch. The bird, a deep and brilliant red, is not as rotund as a cardinal. Watching it move from branch to branch, I see that its flight does not resemble a cardinal, either. I suspect it may be a summer tanager or a scarlet tanager, but it is not close enough for me to be sure. Even with binoculars, I probably could not be certain; I am not as knowledgeable about birds as I would like to be. But I am as knowledgeable as I can be, given the amount of time I am willing to invest to learn about them. My willingness to learn about nature is cyclical; some days, I devour information with a passion but other days I barely give information time to register with my brain before I scoot off to something else. Discipline could “correct” that inconsistency, but fixing the problem might prevent me from stumbling upon fascinating ideas and information that could, conceivably, change my entire perspective for a day. Or a week. Or the remainder of a lifetime.


From time to time, I go online to learn what “quotation collectors” have assembled about a specific subject. The diversity of thoughts on a given topic can be illuminating. Thinking about that diversity can lead to exceptional insights. One such “insight” occurred to me this morning while looking for quotes about curiosity. The insight had little to do with curiosity, but it fueled more curiosity about a different topic: why does the vast majority of quotations in a given collection represent male “thinkers?” Though I did not count, I estimate that more than 90 percent of the collection I examined were quotations attributed to men. Given the subject, curiosity, I was especially surprised to see the paucity of quotes attributed to women. I suppose the experience simply is more evidence of the patriarchal nature of our society. I wonder what replacement term would apply to a society in which males and females were equally influential? Pamatriarchal? Shall I attempt to coin and popularize such a term?


More coffee, please. And this time, do not let it cool so much that it is no longer appealing. I keep looking out the window, my attention being drawn by birds flitting across my field of vision. The sky is awash in birds.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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