"He had been talking quietly with them all,
exhorting them never to stop their learning
and their practicing and their striving to understand
more of the perfect invisible principle of all life.
Then, as he spoke, his feathers went brighter and brighter
and at last turned so brilliant
that no gull could look upon him.
'Jonathan,' he said,
and these were the last words that he spoke
'Keep working on love.'
When they could see again, Chiang was gone."
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
DAY 308: Yesterday afternoon, I was outside walking Annabelle when I found myself transfixed by the slow, wide, overheard circling of a bird, which I later discovered was probably a swift of some sort. The bird was, at the same time, calling in a high-pitched screech that sounded almost joyful. There are an abundant variety of birds that live around my condo complex, including entire families of ducks, geese, and heron who call the large man-made pond with two glorious fountains on the property home ... and, oh, those delighful honks and quacks. I've always been fascinated by birds, by flight, by their calls, by the technical wizadry of their take-offs and landings (even the comically clumsy flight of ducks who seem to "crash land" in water). Maybe I should've taken up ornithology instead of immunology ... oh well, there's always bird-watching, if I had the time to add ONE MORE activity to my life!
Oddly enough for someone with a dreadful fear of heights (but only near precipices, like the edge of cliffs or tall buildings), I've always been fascinated with flight. There is something limitless, unbounded, and free about the flight of a bird. Unlike the mostly two-dimensional flat surface that we terrestrial creatures navigate, birds and other flying creatures have this vast three-dimensional space in which to explore, climb, dive, soar, and glide. I long to be up there with them and have even toyed with taking flying lessons, if you can imagine. I guess for now, I'll continue to fly in my dreams ... something I do VERY frequently.
I'll take it one step further ... I've always found something rather spiritual about flying. I've never really discussed my spiritual beliefs in my blog, but you might be surprised to know that I'm no atheist. I have found that my spiritual leanings tend to be rather Buddhist (Siddhartha is one of my favorite books) and I've always found myself drawn to Eastern religions (and perhaps even Native American) that espouse the interconnectedness of nature and all living things. My background and degrees in Biology probably have something to do with that, as well.
Another book that I cherish is Jonathan Livingston Seagull (which I've quoted above) which links flight and spirituality so completely that they become almost one in the same. I find Jonathan's passion for flying and his search for the PERFECTION of flight at the speed of thought so incredibly compelling and moving that I can rarely watch a bird in flight without thinking of the story. This "perfect invisible principle of all life" is a deeply profound idea to me, and it's what guides my spiritual life.
So, today I'm grateful for the birds and the joy, perfection, total freedom, and yes, even spirituality of flight.