Saturday, February 22, 2014

who's the wiser?

"A bird never doubts its place in the center of the universe."
- From "Prodigal Summer" by Barbara Kingsolver

Indeed. A bird doesn't know string theory or quantum mechanics. A bird doesn't know Big Bang or black holes or dark matter or, for that matter, doesn't spend much time pondering its own existence, or its own navel. It doesn't even have a navel, so the existence of such is also unknown.

A bird just is, ergo, the universe is it. N'est-ce pas?. 

Its days are governed by only a few overpowering needs. A) Find food. B) Not get eaten. C) Once a year, make some babies. 

Each year, your basic bird—say a redstart—has less than a 50-50 chance of surviving until the next year. They don't have much free time for pondering the non-essentials. In fact, pondering the non-essentials can get a redstart eaten by a Cooper's hawk.

Mind you, they aren't completely oblivious to celestial machinations. Birds that migrate—like the redstart—use the movement of the Sun and Moon and stars to navigate which is more than I could do. Sextant 101, I had not. 

So, Barbara Kingsolver's line got me thinking, as any good line should: I can stress over my place in the universe but I couldn't find Guatemala without a stack of maps, a feat an American redstart does annually sans Rand McNally.

So who's view of the universe is more germane to its own existence? 


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