Song Of The Birds

David G. Haskell

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Awakin FeatureFor millennia, the language of birds has called us to cross divides. In the Qur’an, Solomon received a bounty and blessing when he was given the language of birds. Job exhorts us to hear the wisdom of the fowls of the air. News of the human world was carried into the divine ear by the speech of Norse Odin’s ravens and the bluebirds of the Taoist Queen of the West. In the voices of birds, we hear augury, portent, prophesy. We are drawn across boundaries into other places, other times.

Listen: an invitation. But it is hard to discern what is meant in this speech of our winged cousins. Birds inhabit flesh profoundly different from our own. Our inattention further muffles their language. We wall them out with bricks that keep us indoors, inside self-made worlds, and with presuppositions, closely guarded vaults of the mind. We’ve made ourselves a lonely place, so quiet.

Let in the sound. [...]

When we understand the meanings of a sound made by a bird, nerves in two different brains touch and signal. The link between nerve cells is made from vibrating air, a connection as strong and real as the chemical links among nerves in a single brain. Bird sounds, then, are sonic neurotransmitters that leap across species boundaries.

This leap is creative. When bird and human minds connect, a new language is born. This expansive language weaves many species into a communicative whole, a web of listening and speech. Language-learning is indeed for everyone. It unites us. And so we return to the invitation offered to us by the birds around our homes. In their voices we hear the many rhythms of the seasons and the varied physicality of habitats. We learn the individual stories of each bird. We understand how our community is changing and what we should remember from this present moment. We hear and create Earth’s universal grammar.

Let’s answer the birds’ invitation, stepping outside to give them the simple gift of our attention. Listen. Wonder. Belong.

David George Haskell is author of various books, including The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors. The excerpt above from this podcast.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion of a new language being born when the minds of two different species connect? Can you share a personal story of a time you heard and created earth's universal grammar by linking into the mind of another species? What helps you listen for wisdom in a language different from yours?

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8 Previous Reflections:

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    On Sep 17, 2019 Aniket wrote:
    Listening birds is one of the easiest way for me to meditate.

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    On Sep 17, 2019 Peter wrote:
    Beautiful.

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    On Sep 17, 2019 RUBY wrote:
    What a disgusting piece of writing. It is also written in quran to kill every one who does not believe in quran. God would not be so narrow minded and asking for destruction and violence.

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    On Sep 17, 2019 Jodyne wrote:
    Q.)How do you relate to the notion of a new language being born when the minds of two different species connect?
    A.) it may seem like a new language but I've been taught that in the beginning we all (all of creation) understood one another in perfect harmony. What has happened is we lost touch, and some are now re-discovering an ancient truth and understanding in the moment original joys.


    Q.) Can you share a personal story of a time you heard and created earth's universal grammar by linking into the mind of another species?
    A.) some connections are visual and body language speaks.


    Q.) What helps you listen for wisdom in a language different from yours?
    A.) To open all my senses and take time to pay attention and immerse myself in the joy of the moment of interspecies encounters.

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    On Sep 17, 2019 JoAnn Baker Paul wrote:
    Birds of all species have always been my beloved companions and guardians since the very beginning first memory hearing the morning and evening Robin's song or chant or prayer or blessing.

    I was indeed blessed this spring while meditating outside, practicing the noting of the various birdsong. After a short while, I felt the unmistakeable squeeze of a bird's clawed foot. I was relaxed and didn't move at the touch. Not wanting to startle it, I cracked my eyes open to see a pair of sparrows - one with a red breast standing just beside the female clutching on to my big toe. I closed my eyes, filled with appreciation and gratitude. A miraculous affirmation of allowing wellbeing.

    This is a most wonderfilled podcast. I encourage everyone to listen the full length version.

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    On Sep 17, 2019 Billy wrote:
    My wife traveled the world as a Musician [Drummer Extraordinaire]. She often had difficulties sleeping[she told me], but was always happy to know that night had ended- signified by the first bird song of the day.

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    On Sep 14, 2019 david doane wrote:
    I believe that all of creation, living and not living, is interconnected. I believe we don't create earth's universal grammar and don't create the connection or language between different species -- it's already there. Unfortunately we learned or regressed to stop listening, and it would benefit us to listen once again. And I believe it's much more than the minds of different species that connect -- it's the very being of different species that connect. Each being communicates wholistically, not just verbally. We raised sheep, and there were times I seemed to hear what the sheep were communicating to me. What helps me listen for wisdom in a language different from my own is knowing that there are as many different experiences of life as there are species, the human experience being one experience, and each experience has its own wisdom in its own unique language.

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    On Sep 13, 2019 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Let's listen to what David George Haskell states in the last short paragraph of his podcast Song Of the Birds: "Let's answer the birds' invitation, stepping outside to give them the simple gift of our attention. Listen. Wonder. Belong." There are two languages. One with which are too familiar; the verbal language of human kind. The other language with which we are hardly familiar is thelanguage of nature. When we take time to step outside of our human language, be silent, attend, and listen, we get connected with language with universal grammar.The human language can and often does create self made boundaries, divisiveness, conflicts, battles and wars. When I keep my mind open and listen to the other language, a new language is born that expands and deepens my consciousness. Two instances stand out in my mind. One when I was with my friend listening to a song beginning with two Hindi words, "Ful kahe" meaning the "flower says". These two words... [View Full Comment] Let's listen to what David George Haskell states in the last short paragraph of his podcast Song Of the Birds:
    "Let's answer the birds' invitation, stepping outside to give them the simple gift of our attention. Listen. Wonder. Belong."
    There are two languages. One with which are too familiar; the verbal language of human kind. The other language with which we are hardly familiar is thelanguage of nature. When we take time to step outside of our human language, be silent, attend, and listen, we get connected with language with universal grammar.The human language can and often does create self made boundaries, divisiveness, conflicts, battles and wars. When I keep my mind open and listen to the other language, a new language is born that expands and deepens my consciousness.

    Two instances stand out in my mind. One when I was with my friend listening to a song beginning with two Hindi words, "Ful kahe" meaning the "flower says". These two words opened my eyes to see the beauty of nature right in front of my eyes.The second was when I was reading Tagore's poem. The poet was looking for beauty in the far awy forest and on the Himalayan Mountains. He hearda soft and gentle voice of a flower plant in his yard inviting him to see beauty right in front of his eyes. Both songs have opened my eyes to see beauty in nature close to me , right beside me!

    Finding time to attend, behold, wonder and connect everyday to relate to nature helps me to to listen to the wisdom offered to me as a gift.
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave


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