Friday, March 28, 2014
wrapping my mind around bird brains
I know a guy who used to race pigeons, mostly as a small time hobby. I was responsible for feeding his pigeons for a week while he was on vacation, so I'm familiar with how a pigeon loft works. I don't know much else except that it's common to cull slow racers if they haven't already gotten lost finding their way home during practice flights, or maybe choose not to come home. My dad was curious about about it when I told him what I'd picked up about pigeon racing and asked, "How do you know you're not killing the fastest one? Maybe it had to fly through a thunderstorm, or outmaneuver a hawk. Maybe it went through all kinds of challenges the others never made it through, wouldn't that make it the best one?"
Humans have an odd way of looking at things, and I see all around me that we are torn between compassion and efficiency. I learned in my sociology degree during a class about the industrial revolution that our group thinking radically changed when a person's work load became closely associated with the time it takes to produce a good or service, and that makes a person worth more or less to an employer. I know it's hard for us to imagine, but this is not intuitive thinking for humans and wasn't a world standard even just 300 years ago. We have to be taught to think this way, but once we do think this way, it's hard to think outside this kind of box. We can see by looking around us at coworkers and at children growing into the work force that the 'work ethic' truly isn't instinctive.
Compassion doesn't make money, and we often talk about living in a throwaway society. People who can't keep up or pull their weight are often thought of as losers and drags on the system, whatever the system is in our minds, even though the ultimate goal of the system is group survival, if I'm understanding my history correctly. The best of religious and political arguments highlight whether humans are literally going through the shredders along with the words that keep churning around and around, and somewhere someone like me slips through all the cracks and realizes there is no 'side'.
I try to keep up a workout routine. It's hard, but I'm doing the impossible, so I don't mind so much. Today I walked a brisk pace for 25 minutes while I did my arm stretches, something I've not be able to do at the same time before without having to stop right away. In the long slow climb up a mundane little hill, I forget sometimes that I've already climbed the steep escarpment that loomed above yet another long climb up a mountain base with threats of avalanche all around me. A handful of years ago I was barely walking at all, and not for any distance.
Sometimes a pigeon gets home from a race several days later than the others from its loft, only to be immediately culled. Without any kind of tracking or camera on that pigeon, no one has any idea why it took so long. No one knows that it may have suffered calamity another pigeon in the loft didn't live through, or it may have been courageous and compassionate and stayed behind with a mate who'd been attacked by a bird of prey very high in the air, and stayed with it till it died. We love that our dogs will go back to save kittens from something, but we somehow miss that pigeons and humans perform unsung brave and compassionate deeds through dark and terrible anguish.
I do a lot of thinking while I work out.