Monday, March 14, 2011

Bird in the Pepper Tree

Don't mind my inexplicable delight
in knowing your name,
little Wilson's Warbler
yellow as a lemon, with a smooth, black cap..

Just do what you do and don't worry, dipping
branch by branch down  to the fountain....

A name is not a leash.

Just two days ago a man came up to me brimming with ideas for a "bird ministry."  He wanted to teach troubled youth bird identification as a means to connect, focus, and move towards wholeness.  Without dropping a beat I said, "Count me in."  I'll do anything to get people to enjoy beauty, so that they can respond to it.  Though I have degrees in birds and they are my vocation and calling, I've never been overly concerned with their names, or teaching people names.   Beauty is beauty no matter what you call it. In fact, I have seen the pursuit of adding bird names to a "life list" detract from the objective wonder of the bird itself as the ego asserts its control in the field.

In this case, however, teaching the names to young people and helping them recognize the individuality of species is a discipline that is liberating.  Identifying birds gives them a choice to contribute as citizen scientists, and is a means to better understand their world.  Naming unleashes the wild possibility within.

Here comes the paradox.  We need to "know" names to contribute to this world, and we don't need to know names to contribute wholeness and healing.  Name it and then let go knowing anything about the bird so that you can meld with pure interconnection. 

Dogen the Buddhist might write (if he were a Birdist):

There is a Wilson's Warbler.
There is not a Wilson's Warbler.
There is a Wilson's Warbler.

What might you un-name today?

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