For the last two weeks I have spent my days to the sound of a robin throwing himself against the windows.
It’s spring and the sap is running, so this bird feels the call of nature. To him, that means defending his territory against other males, making sure that all female robins see him as the top.
There are no other robins for him to fight, though, so instead, he spends hours everyday fighting himself. He sees his reflection in the glass and it irks him, so he flies straight in to terrorize and thump his imaginary opponent.
You might figure he would learn from crashing into a pane of glass over and over. He has, a bit.
The first day the thuds were loud and painful sounding, but now, after two weeks, the skirmish with the shiny robin is less intense, turned more into habit and routine. I now only hear a soft clatter from across the room as he skitters up the pane, scratching and clawing at his imaginary opponent.
It would be easy to think that there would be some kind of metaphor there, a koan about persistence or learning, a tale of futility or self-delusion.
Instead, all I see is a bird who has it in his nature to confront and display finding a way to do that even when he is more or less alone in a quiet yard.
We are who we are. Some parts of us are rooted deep in our creation. We execute on them even when they don’t serve us any more, when they are just shows of atavistic expression.
If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Does an action have to be perceived to make it real?
Clearly, our robin says no. Just the bold defence alone is worth the valiant and repeated effort, with or without another bird to intimidate, another bird to impress.
In neurolinguistic programming (NLP) terms, I am an auditory. While I see and feel, my primary experience of the world is through hearing what is around me.
I don’t just listen to sound, I make sounds. An old friend once told me that she would hear me making noises and be sure that I was doing it deliberately to annoy her, but when she saw me, I was oblivious to her, just reading or typing or whatever.
A staffer told me that she knew I was good when I was working hard and “singing” a little bit, focused and intent. An old boss told me she was entertained by the little “radio plays” that came out of me.
When I am alone, I often have conversations with myself, just to hear the sounds of the voices inside, amused by their tone and interplay. They are my “Jonathan Winters” sounds, the play of a writer exploring words and meaning.
Growing up in the world I did, though, there was no audience to get the joke, to engage and encourage my natural expression. Those around me were much more likely to see it as an attempt to annoy them rather than just my nature leaking out though sonic vibrations.
I learned to stay silent, learned to shape my sound to communicate with an audience. My playful nature had to be curbed and constrained so that other people would not see me as a nuisance, as weird, as sick.
So much of my nature had to be forced down and away, into the depths of a dark, cold and very lonely closet. I knew people didn’t see it as star quality, as something I needed to polish to let my heart shine, rather they saw it as brokenness, unpleasant to them and a mark of my impending & inevitable failure.
Compliant silence and abject service was all I could offer unless I wanted to be marginalized and shamed for my noisy nature, as I learned very, very, very early.
Nature, though, runs very deep, as my intense robin reminds me everyday. I still make those sounds, though for myself, when I am alone, or sharing them via writing that I know few will ever see and even fewer will ever hear.
Fighting to place your nature in the world is exhausting and costly. I had other fights that seemed more important to me, fights about caring, about love, the fights of someone with the heart of a mother, that fighting for personal expression fell to the rear until I was too pooped, too beaten down by scarcity to engage for myself.
The sweetest sounds I ever heard are still inside my head and my heart, just as the most important sounds lie trapped in there too. I have a handful of nice drafts I started over the last two weeks and a few more notes, but I can’t seem to get the sounds out.
So much of my exploration has come down to symbol and meaning, which the wider world sees as value versus noise. Sounds that don’t fit into the current schema are just reduced to noise, cluttering up the simple truths, simply nattering and braying that gets in the way.
While my training may be in trying to keep down what people cannot yet understand so I can attempt to get what meaning I can across, my life has been an experience in glorious noise.
The divine experience comes only in the unexpected, in the juxtaposition of the known and the unknown. Between this world and the next lies illumination, trapped in the words which struggle to convey the shimmering interference patterns of truth which cuts across our perceptions and into our hearts & minds.
The effort to take the glorious noise inside of me, that nature which lies in the surprising interplay of sound, and turn it into mild product which doesn’t threaten or disgust people into shutting down, well, that has taken the most of me without creating a lovely reward anywhere than in my own relationship with my creator.
No matter how tough you are, you can’t keep flying smack on into a window forever, no matter how much nature calls
While it is happening, though, it is a glorious noise, part of the immense soundscape of an interconnected world, where nature, if allowed to blossom, keeps things alive and growing.
I love the glorious noise that has always tied me to the rest of nature.
Sharing that glorious noise, though, has proven difficult.