Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spin Doctors



We humans create meaning. We can't help it. Those who are unable to discern meaning from the events and situations of their lives are thought to be depressed and put on various medications. We are intolerant of those who don't tow the line according to current standards.

Of course those who find too much meaning in the world are also thought to be unbalanced. I definitely fall more into this category than the former. I love storytelling, i.e. the creative act of attaching meaning to the world, the creative act of the narrative. Oh yeah.

The following is from this Scientific American article about our inclination to tell a good story.

Our minds form cohesive narratives out of disparate elements all the time: one of the things we are best at is telling ourselves just so stories about our own behavior and that of others. If we’re not sure, we make it up – or rather, our brain does, without so much as thinking about asking our permission to do so.

The graphics that go along with the article are quite wonderful, though I think our stories about a strict left brain/right brain division have been revised since this was published. Also, I dislike the way we love to imagine that the brain is separate from the body. I assure you, it is tissue and fluid and blood - and it IS a part of the body. To what or whom would the brain ask permission?

The creation of stories is ongoing, including in the sciences and especially in history. I love revisionist history. It reveals much about the wavelength of cultural thought at this moment in time, maybe not as much about factual history. History always explains the viewpoint of the historian, always.

As a shaman, it's my duty to decide what experiences deserve my meaning-making, storytelling attention. I could assign meaning to every damn thing if I wanted to. I really could. However, if I went down that sketchy path, I would never have time to work on my clients, get the laundry done or while away the hours on Facebook. No. What one of my great teachers said over and over is that mastery in the art of shamanism has to do with discernment. What merits attention? It's a central question, along with, What resonates?

I had a weird day today. There's a cold front moving through DC, bringing unsettled energy, bouts of rain, bouts of clear sky, moody looking clouds, a cool breeze, but also lots of humidity - a harbinger of summer in the swamp. The weather is confused and the day has been confusing. For instance, I temporarily lost my keys. Please understand I am a hyper vigilant about my keys. I never lose my keys - except I did today. But I found them, hence decided that episode is probably not worth focusing on.

But the bird fight - that, I'm thinking about.

Coming home from Eastern Market, I heard terrible bird shrieks and scuffling feathers. Just inside the gate of the chateau, two mockingbirds were going at it like nobody's business. It was a brutal fight to the death.

Little dinosaurs.

Several times I yelled NO FIGHTING! I was within a foot of them, but they paid no attention. I was afraid they were going to kill each other. I leaned down, put my face within a few inches of them and yelled KNOCK IT OFF!! as loudly as I could. Suddenly they noticed, and both flew away, apparently unhurt. It was so weird.

A little while later I heard the saddest, most poignant birdsong, unlike anything I've heard before. I went out to see what was going on. Below is a picture of the bird who was singing the saddest aria ever from his or her perch on the flagpole next door. Of course my mind turned immediately to wondering if this was one of the birds who had fought by the gate.

About what were they fighting? And why the long face on this mock? Usually they're so haughty.

The birds have their own story, of course. But I witnessed the fight, hence the bird fight as well as the sad song is a metaphor of something. My official decision: this merits attention. I'll be thinking about it for awhile. May whatever story I spin help me become wiser, kinder, and more compassionate.

What a weird day!


7 comments:

ellen abbott said...

It could have been a territorial incursion. I love mockingbirds. They sing their little hearts out perched high up.

Pam said...

Interesting you describe the sad birdsong 'like nothing I have ever heard before". I think those experiences are important. If you would like to check the April 9th post here at Textilosophy, my encounter was something I had not experienced before with birds either, and it certainly makes you think!

Pam said...

Interesting you describe the sad birdsong 'like nothing I have ever heard before". I think those experiences are important. If you would like to check the April 9th post here at Textilosophy, my encounter was something I had not experienced before with birds either, and it certainly makes you think!

Rebecca Clayton said...

I'm pretty sure that's a catbird, another species in the mockingbird family (Mimidae, a great name!) The official name is "Grey Catbird" if you want to look 'em up on the Web.

They compose their own songs, like the mocks, but they have a different style of borrowing phrases and assembling them. They also make some strange, wild sounds that people call "crying," and they meow sometimes.

You have both mockingbirds and catbirds in DC (and brown thrashers too, they also "mock" other birdsongs), so the catbird may be grateful that you ran off the mockingbirds.

Strangely, the mockingbirds never come up Droop Mountain (although there are plenty of them down on the Levels). We have, exclusively, catbirds around our house.

Since I've lived here, I've heard people describe someone they think is special as a catbird. As in, "Reya's a catbird. She sure is." (You are.)

Reya Mellicker said...

Rebecca - thank you! Yes I hear catbirds often - thank you for this, for all your knowledge.

Pam must catch up with your blog.

Linda Sue said...

weird is better than not at all, I reckon. So, I am glad that you are having a weird day rather than a not at all day! ( that must mean something) (?)

Reya Mellicker said...

It does.