Uncommon Lessons From An Unlikely Teacher

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Birds flying high you know how I feel. Sun in the sky you know how I feel. Breeze drifting on by you know how I feel…” ~ Nina Simone

Have you ever paused long enough to observe nature? Say, the intricate manner in which the spider weaves its web and how even after a thunderstorm, both it and its delicate home always seem to remain firmly intact? How about the worker ants in a colony that instinctively know how to lock their legs together at just the right angle, to create a raft with their tiny bodies that has enough buoyancy to get across to dry ground during a flood? Surrounding us everyday in nature are unsung heroes, whose instinctive thrusts for survival create such beautiful narratives that could serve as powerful life lessons for us, if we would only spare a moment to take heed.

As I slowly approach wrapping up my tenure as a graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program, for the past few weeks I have been diligently processing, envisioning and strategizing concerning what I would like my life to look like at the end of this period and beyond and the trajectory I will need to follow to ensure that my plans become a reality. This for me of-course represents only a fraction of the number of fragmented issues that have become a focal point in my quest to make ready the pathway leading to good success. In one of my quiet moments this week, I learnt something new about birds and what makes them so efficient at what they do so naturally; flying.

  1. They stick with their inherent design. Birds do what birds are designed to do. They simply fly. They make no attempt at swimming; at least only long enough to secure a fish meal, and they spend a considerable amount of time assuming their natural disposition in their designated environment.
  2. They watch what they consume. Birds eat foods that are generally very high in “usable calories”. In this way they get as many calories as possible from eating small amounts of the right kinds of food.
  3. They do not retain wastes. Because birds do not have bladders, they urinate as soon as they have to, therefore getting rid of “useless weight” very quickly (that explains alot!).
  4. They know when to do what. Birds generally exert energy through flapping to facilitate movement, but are smart enough to capitalize on air currents to help support them midair; including thermal air currents, updrafts (“obstruction currents”) and wind. By harnessing these forces, which at times could be contentious (from the resistance created) and even appear counter-productive, birds are able to soar in their preferred direction.
  5. They have a sense of direction. By knowing where they want to go and positioning themselves accurately, birds typically arrive at their destination on time. This is of particular importance to migratory birds that instinctively operate on a schedule.

In The Human’s Manual For Living, Job who was probably the most tried individual on earth (second to Jesus of-course), made a very bold and almost far-fetched statement. He said, “Just ask the animals, and they will teach you. Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you. Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you…”. I have to admit, the brother was on to something.

Is it possible that many of the answers and strategies we are looking for are hidden in plain sight, by design? Maybe some of the lessons we are meant to learn are entwined in the rhythm of both the animate and the inanimate surroundings. Just as Job said, it might be worth paying a little more attention to these unlikely teachers.

*Credit for supporting material given to Annenberg Learner – Journey North.

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