If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.” from Middlemarch
The birds, and one particular bird, have been waking me up lately at 5 in the morning. On Monday, I got up and recorded a few moments of their songs through my open window. (I have attached the audio link above). Early morning sound is so different than later in the day. I am different. Fresh from sleep, a different state of consciousness, I can hear things that I don’t normally hear. Thinking about birdsong now, I realize that there has been tons of it going on all morning right outside my dining room window where I’ve been writing. I just haven’t tuned in to it. An exercise in listening is an exercise in gratitude. What do you hear right now if you really listen? One of my favorite short meditations is just to focus on my breath and then the sounds that I hear. It takes me out of my head and back into the present.
Listening to the birds, and that one particular bird, who just sounds so darn proud, made me think about the mysteries of birdsong. While there are evolutionary reasons—territorial, mating—why birds sing, there is also a lot of evidence that they do it solely for the sake of joy.
Just a short reflection today. I am reading a book by Kate Braestrup, and there is one section that I read to Audrey one night before bed a couple of weeks ago that I will share with you as well in closing:
Genuine gratitude, the gratitude of prayer, must ultimately arise out of a profound recognition that things could be other than what they are.
If you will forgive a small diversion into a kind of mysticism—things could not be. At all.
The true realist should expect what is most likely. That which is most likely is nothing. “Nothing is impossible!” people say, but actually, everything except nothing is impossible! Nothingness is the most possible—indeed, the most probable—thing in the cosmos. Not only is there no inevitability involved when the fry cook give you your french fries, the odds are bazillion to one against either of you (or the potatoes) existing at all.
Yet here you are!
…If we humans are making good use of our consciousness, we would wander around in a flabbergasted daze of gratitude all the time: I could be hungry…but instead, I’ve got french fries! There could be nothing…but instead, there’s something!
There could be only birth, pain, and death. Instead, there is also love.