Of Dead Birds, Fowl, Perception and Interpretation

The ghostly impressions left on glass when birds crash into windows - Telegraph. The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses. Francis Bacon.

A month ago, I got acquainted for the first time with a peculiar phenomenon: bird-window collision.

I was working in the lounge bathed by the natural sunlight coming through its very large window. I’ve never opened the electric blind so fully before and lo and behold I see; live, a bird crashing against my window with a terrible thump. The next second, the bird was lying legs up, rigid, with the head missing, on the tiles of my terrace. I could not believe that the force of the collision could have beheaded the bird, so my mind raced with all types of thoughts from frankly paranoid to superstitious.  I was so shaken by this sight that I even phoned the local authorities, but it was Election Day then and they had better to do that day. [Yeah right, we still don’t have a government and we might not have one till the last legal minute!] I told my husband about the crashing bird and he was incredulous until the phenomenon happened again some 3 days after (no beheading this time), when he was at home, under both our very eyes. My superstition apparatus was turned on, full blown: dead bird, sinister omen, we’re cursed. I was reviewing all the enemies I could have made this last year, maybe someone threw a beheaded bird at the window.

chicken_lickenAll the primitive fears possible raced in my head. My chicken-licken was running away from the sky falling on its head.  My husband as cool as a cucumber, only called the birds ‘kamikaze’ to make me calm down: 2 different ways of seeing the world, none satisfactory for the time being. I knew that coming from a very superstitious family, I was on automatic-pilot and yet it took me another day or 2 of anxiety before I can check on the Internet about this phenomenon.

Peering Behind the Curtain

behind the curtainI didn’t know why I persisted in my irrational fears and interpretations, until I talked about what happened to my mum and some others, who told me that it is a good sign, i.e., it is better that birds die rather than anything happens to me or my family.  That’s it: I had to peer behind the curtain, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, to look at the workings of this phenomenon, both inner and outer: an opportunity to fight superstition and ignorance. I was saddened to learn that this phenomenon is very common:  “One of the greatest hazards to birds is plate glass, with windows in homes and offices killing as many as one billion birds each year. Glass is invisible to birds, and if it reflects the images of trees, bushes, the sky or other natural habitat, a bird may fly directly into it.” Until I heed the counsel in the websites I visited on how to protect the birds, I will keep the window half shut like before.

Beyond Perception and Interpretations

A bird’s perception is all instincts, of its species, it is true, but still only perception no interpretation. As human beings, our perception is skewed by the many cultural influences and interpretations we derive from them, coloring our experiences and vice versa. Interpretation is unavoidable for us and a source of most misunderstanding and strife in the world. And in some ways animals, presently birds when they don’t crash onto windows, are luckier than us. We spend more than 20 years learning stuff that we will eventually, mostly, have to unlearn, when we come of age, if we choose to live more satisfying, full-filling lives! While ‘superstition is the poetry of life’ as Goethe puts it, without investigating a little further the bird window collision phenomenon, I don’t know how many other bird casualties would have kept on paving my terrace. There is no way to check whether these dead birds were peace offerings, atonement  for any danger that could have befallen me or my family or even good omens, like I was pressed to believe.  What I know though is that the birds did not die in vain: they helped me see things in a new light and a quote from the Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley fits my process:

To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large — this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone.

Today’s Fowl’s message: In-formation is available to us if we are willing to investigate. Interpretation can be a prison as much as it can liberate us. It’s up to us to choose liberating beliefs.

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition. Rod Serling.


Happy Heuristics

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