Saturday, December 10, 2011

Vultures and crows, currents, communication, and compassion 12/10/11

Last week I was watching vultures swirling upward through the air, never even needing to flap their wings, wending their way in long slow gradually rising circles, eventually moving off into the distance on an unseen current of air. I was thinking about how water has currents that we can often see because of bubbles and ripples and things floating along; perhaps animals living in the water, like fish, can only feel the currents rather than see them, because the water is surrounding them. We live in the air, and can't see it, and can only see the effects of the currents of air from something moving in them, like birds or clouds or tree branches or leaves or dust, and of course we can feel the wind blowing against us.

Currents in the world of spirit are invisible to our physical senses, but once again we can feel things, such as love or fear or exaltation. And we can see people moving in unexpected amazing ways, and know they are riding the currents of the Holy Spirit. Unseen currents (water, air, or spirit) can have patterns we can learn, or can be unexpected; can be gentle and refreshing, or powerful and even dangerous; can transport us far from our starting points and guide us to distant shores and destinations. We can learn to sense and ride and fly the currents, but there is a power in them we can't control, and when we surrender to them we can go the farthest with the least effort, perhaps to places no one else has ever been.

The same day I was watching the vultures, some crows just on the other side of a line of trees set up a loud excited cawing that went on and on. Other crows from nearby cawed and flew over, and then more and more groups came, until all of them within hearing arrived. I'm sure I watched at least 50 fly over, over the course of 5 to 10 minutes. I don't know if they found something alarming (like a hawk or owl), or something to eat or hunt... but all of them in earshot responded. I thought about how when white blood cells in the body find an intruder they send out messages that call other white blood cells to come and attack. And I thought about how in a healthy group (of animals, or in a family, or in a village), when one sets up an alarm or call, others of the group come to help or investigate or comfort or protect, or heed the warning and go hide.

How do we make our larger communities (schools, businesses, cities...) sensitive to the cries of those who are hurt, or warning of problems, or who need help? I think we become overwhelmed by the amount of commotion and noise and distress and sensory overload in a place with many people, and don't feel a personal connection. Some of the psychological and sociological studies show that the more people that are around, the less likely someone is to personally help or call for help. They also show that if we are busy (supposed to get somewhere for an appointment, for example), we are less likely to stop and help. So we need to make space for connection, and space in our days in terms of time. Space for unexpected "divine appointments". Space for us to be ourselves. Space to connect with nature, and slow down to our natural rhythms. Places where we can truly see others and be seen, where who we are and what we do makes a difference (so we don't learn helplessness, or learn that we don't matter). We need to stay aware instead of tuning out. I think that we've let our society get too big and anonymous, perhaps in search of efficiency, or perhaps from lack of planning, and that we need to plan ways to create connection, intimacy, authenticity, integrity, compassion, and respect.

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