Seven Lessons from the Birds
What we know about the birds is that they are feathered, winged, two-legged, egg-laying and warm-blooded vertebrates. They are closed to us. Their innocence, colorful feathers and fascinating flight arrests our attention. The living habits and the nature of birds have a strong attachment with the cultural aspect of human societies. Many a proverbs reflect the same:
- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
- Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
- Wise as an owl.
- Eagle eye.
- Bird’s eye view.
- Kill two birds with one stone.
- The goose that laid the golden egg.
- Light as a feather.
- Hen party.
- Like a duck on a June bug.
- Strut like a rooster.
- Watch like a hawk.
- Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Thus the cultures around the world have been enriched with the vocabularies related to birds. And found to be a consistent part of thought process in human history that has helped learn the realities of life. One is not sure of what proverb is what in real sense and how it was originated? But the interesting side of the last of the proverbs has been described; the National Geographic scientists have an answer for the age old dispute over which came first, the chicken or the egg. Reptiles were laying eggs thousands of years before chickens appeared. The first chicken came from an egg laid by a bird that was not quite a chicken. Therefore, the egg came first. Looking beyond such interesting facts is the intention of writing and I would like to draw the attention towards some of the important lessons that one can learn from the birds.
A treat to the eyes is their very existence. The look, the flapping of wings freely, gliding peacefully in the vastness of skies, the disciplined living style, the association with the nest, the way it flashes its wings and the phenomenon that involves in its flight gave a new lease to human development in the fields of locomotion, aeronautics etc. Humans have an observational relationship with the birds since prehistory. And have conquest the air by virtue of such a studious relationship. Thus we have many lessons.
The first impression that one gets looking at the behavioral attitude of these birds is that they are quite innocent. Their knocking at the glass assuming to be another “me” on other side, looking left and right hurriedly while drinking water or pecking seeds from the ground, assuming stones to be seed, responding to the human voices the way one imitates….are just few glimpses of their innocent nature and appearance. Birds have been categorized with their specific meanings and symbols. Have a look at the following:
- Blue Jay – truthful
- Cardinal – nobility
- Chickadee – purity of soul
- Crow - straight talk
- Dove – peace
- Eagle – positive energy
- Falcon – spiritual achievements
- Flamingo – grace
- Hummingbird – stability
- Rooster – awakening of ideas
- Tame Duck – Simplicity
These illustrations are but heart’s reflection. We know that the emotions that one expresses are projection of his heart’s inner feelings. Whatever one does, reveal his inner self. “Face is the index of mind” is nothing but a projection of the inside feelings. What differentiate a normal human being from a good one is the noble and kind gesture that he portrays through his words and actions. So be kind at heart, it shows that you have been brought up in an atmosphere of love and affection and taught the indelible values that conquer the heart of people.
- Never allow any ill feelings to be a part of your heart.
- Nourish love and affection for your near and dear ones and have an assessment of it.
- Speak well about others.
- Through your attitude and gesture allow everyone to assess that you are pure by heart.
- The physical appearance, the body language, the language you speak, the way you behave with others should help others understand that you are a God fearing person.
This is how we can articulate the innocent nature of a bird. This is what a bird’s existence gives us a lesson. A man has to show even more kindhearted gesture after all his intellect and wisdom has no comparison with any living being.
2. Complete Submission
The flight of a bird silently communicates with us that it has stretched its wings in the midst of the vast skies, as if he has submitted completely to the skies. No bird is found to be flying in haste or with fear. What one observes is its flying, enjoying the breeze, looking down at the earth and having a view of its own, selecting a place to rest or pray. This particular aspect of a bird helps us understand the very phenomenon involved in their flight. It’s nothing but an issue of complete submission to the skies, to the air that flows and the phenomenon involved there in. Bird’s light but strong hollow bones, feathers, lungs and strong muscles of their breast help respond to the upward and downward thrust, whereas for the phenomenon like lift and drag, their tale and legs are quite synchronized for. Since bird by their own cannot willingly go against their nature as humans do, so it’s obvious that the God has created them to suit to fly high in the skies. The optimum utilization of the potential helps the bird soar high, freely and peacefully, and fulfill their basic needs.
Wish the human could also enjoy the same peaceful atmosphere in their societies and an easy and all-time access to their basic needs, but this is not true. Today chaos and uneasiness define the human society and there are millions of people in the world who are deprived of their basic necessities.
Man has been created with potentials that no other creature can match, his intellect, his knowledge, his knowing of what is right and what is wrong etc are quite unparallel. Here lies the secret of peaceful and progressive life that like bird a man should surrender his potentials to the will and wish of God. This way he might fulfill his dream of peaceful and happy living. The matter of complete submission found to be order of the society and it appears to be quite sensible. Children to be obedient of their parents, students to be courteous for their teachers, soldiers to be discipline and dutiful and a spouse to be loyal are nothing but an outcome of the demands of complete submission. No matter where a person gets associated, the very expectation that is focused is complete devotion and be loyal to the firm. Here is the lesson, the bird is in a state of complete submission to its Creator so should be man.
3. No Disparity
The flapping of two wings thereby smooth gliding through the air actually gives us a clear message that smooth flying is possible with the movements of both the wings. If one looks at the science involved in the flight of bird, astonishing facts would surely stir his mind. The flapping of two wings help in developing the lift, which in turn give rise to thrust and thereby the counter action results in the speed, as a result one can see a bird attaining height.
If one translates the same phenomenon it comes out to be a hard reality. An action that matches the words helps climb the ladder of success and attain heights of achievements. A person can never attain success if there is disparity between his words and actions. This is what some of the famous personalities of our time say: Gandhi Ji rightly said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny” and C G Jung said: You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. Aristotle says: We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. Whereas William B Sprague stresses: Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.
The smooth progress is possible only when a man’s words are in harmony with his actions. No place for disparities of any scale. So be a person of words and actions. Be a personification of “no disparity”. Let other recognize you as a person whose words are actions and actions are words. Just think, is it possible to conclude that the progressive societies is because of linearity of thoughts and actions whereas disturbances a result of disparities?
Words and Actions Equals to Development?
Do you believe that society attains sustainable development only with the similarities between words and actions of the people?
The bird that built its nest on a branch of tree and a bird that sits fearlessly on a branch of tree resembles that it has its own calculations and it’s pretty confident over them. It’s amazing to see that no birds or animals carry their food on their back. It’s their efforts that help get the required amount of food. The gardens, rivers, jungle, fields, trees, sowing grounds, to name a few are the sources of food for these vertebrates. A bird comes out of the nest in the morning, with empty stomach, fly here and there in search of food, but surprisingly it returns to nest in the evening with his stomach full, moreover has a lot more in its beak for the chick in the nest.
This particular aspect tells us that God has spread the sustenance; it’s our efforts that help get that. One has to have trust over God that He will shower mercy. Harder he works more will be His blessings. In case of bird too, Jeffry Holland what said is very true "God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest."
So soaring high and reaching to the highest positions rest on two important things, belief and efforts which can be put in a nutshell as “trust”. It’s a bilinear connection. One end of which should reflect strong attachment with the Creator and another hard work and consistency. One end should reflect strong belief and intense love of God and the other a strong connection with the human beings. The one who adhere to these principles will neither wake up in the morning empty stomach nor go to bed with empty hands.
The disciplinary life cuts problem to half a size, or perhaps almost nil. But it depends on how consistently one shows discipline all through his life. Looking at the bird’s day to day life; one may be surprised to know that their life is a symbol of discipline. The morning and evening activities, their consistence migration from far off places to a particular one, their collective flights, living together and sharing the eatables etc. are just a few glimpses that depict their disciplined lives. The disciplinary movements of the bird elucidate a lot.
Take for instance the breathtaking flight of a small bird – the golden plover. This bird lives in Alaska. When winter arrives, it takes an incredible nonstop flight of 2,500 miles to Hawaii, which lasts for 88 hours, and involves about 0.25 million consecutive wing beats. The bird’s weigh about 7 ounces, of which 2.5 ounces are stored as layers of fat to be used as fuel. It’s a known fact that the bird converts 0.6 percent per hour of its body weight into energy and heat. If you calculate for a period of 88 hours, it shows that the bird has used almost 3 ounces of fuel. So, in spite of flying at the speed which minimizes its fuel consumption, there remains no enough fuel to reach Hawaii, but how it reaches safely is a fact worth knowing. The Creator who provided the bird with its aerodynamic shape has inspired the bird with an instinct to fly collectively in V-formation. Thus it saves 23 percent of its energy – enough to reach its destination safely. In this way, even after flying for 88 hours the bird saves one quarter ounce of fat.
The v-shape flight of birds gives us a message which strikes like an arrow straight at the heart of those problems which are not only aged old but seems to be unsolvable, that the disciplinary and collective efforts can provide a sure solution. The developed society should join hands with other developed societies in order to help a society marred with many a problems. In such a situation even a country of minimum resources can find a definite solution for poverty and health related matters. It’s a fact that in spite of national and international organizations efforts, some of the problems still define the human society. Coming together and sharing the pain of others will surely result in a new dawn.
Feathers distinguish bird from animals. The feathers or wings represent a bird without which its existence itself is meaningless, they not only help the birds climb to the heights but also play crucial role in protecting the birds from the elements, provide waterproofing and insulation and even block harmful ultraviolet rays from reaching to the skin. Thus we can conclude that feathers to a bird are just like what skills and talents to human beings.
A bird is known by its feathers, whereas a man is known by the talents he possesses. Here reaching to height does not necessary demand a person to exercise his potentials rather in some cases he is required to lower them or deliberately make low profile use of them, in order to benefits those who are void of those talents or those who deserve. Or in some cases, for those who are our near and dear ones.
As for the former is concerned, let us consider serving the parents. No one can dare to resort to lame excuses. In view of the busy schedule or lack of resources, no one supposed to flee. Here one has to lower his wings, in the sense his position, earnings and the life style by which he is famous, should be lowered for the parents in order to ensure their utmost care. That means the position and the busy schedule should not be a hindrance for treating the parents in a manner they deserve. His earnings should not allow him to think of admitting the parents to an elder’s home. But the tragedy of today’s world is that the grown up children seldom find time to spend quality time with their parents. As a result, the society has a growing number of old aged homes. These homes are a blot on the society’s forehead; they are nothing but reflection of disobedient children. I think this particular aspect does not reflect a healthy flight of a person. Though man has progressed materialistic but his moral aspect is touching the low.
As we know the talents and skills vary from person to person, if anyone is deprived of a particular skill, it becomes obligation on one to help another. That means I need to lower my wings over a person who happens to be my colleagues or friend by helping him accomplish his task. For birds, flapping of wings help them reach the heights whereas for humans, reaching to the heights depends on how they lower their wings (make use of their talents and skills to help others).
If one ponders over the things around, he may surprise to know that only a few have direct relation. For instance, look at the birds, most of them are not our property. We neither owe them nor have any rights. But yes, their existence invites our attention. The six points explained above are just a few. If man thinks over their nature of flight and their disciplined lives certainly many a things would crop up as a catalyst for sustainable developments. It means the nature that is around us is directly related with the human development and societal progress, provided one has to think time and again. Now, ponder over the flight of bird – the outcome of which will make you realize that the sustainable development rest with utilizing the senses of seeing, hearing and understanding. The development in the field of aeronautical engineering can be ascribed to the observation of flight of a bird. The human’s dream and fascination to fly in the sky have made it an obligation to ponder over the way a bird flies. Which helped in conquest of the air .Then there comes a never ending chain of inventions, from gliding wings to helicopter, and from planes to rockets. From a minimal speed flying object to airplanes flying at subsonic, transonic, supersonic and hypersonic speeds. You can regard the satellite swimming over the heads as an extension of flights.
It’s a fact that our day to day life has direct connection to the inventions associated with this field, right from the functioning of mobiles to television, from weather forecast to the knowledge of hidden treasures beneath the earth. As Louis-Pierre Mouillard, L' Empire de I' Air, say: I hold that in the flight of the soaring birds (the vultures, the eagles, and other birds which fly without flapping) ascension is produced by the skillful use of the force of the wind, and the steering, in any direction, is the result of skillful maneuvers; so that by a moderate wind a man can, with an airplane, un- provided with any motor whatever, rise up into the air and direct himself at will, even against the wind itself.
Leonardo da Vinci, in his Treatise on the Flight of Birds argues: A bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law, which instrument it is within the capacity of man to reproduce with all its movements.
The history of flight is the history of man’s dream, if one wishes to realize his dream of a peaceful and progressive world he has to heed to all the lessons that he can extract by pondering over a bird.
With these lessons let us say consciously that faith is nothing but the wings, higher the faith greater the wings, and so is the flight of the bird, high and vast amidst the skies. The crux of the lessons is that the rise of nation should not be a fall of others. The progress of one should not hamper the peace and progress of others.
(C) 2014 - Muhammad Abdullah Javed (m abdullah javed)