Sunday, December 4, 2011

Twittering in the forest (the real thing)

This morning I was going for a walk along our rural road on the mountain, watching the bare branches, some broken from the previous storms, and enjoying the clear, frosty air. The iPod in my pocket was playing a podcast of a short Swedish radio program called Tankar för dagen (Thoughts for the Day), where authors, ministers, scientists, physicians, social workers, artists, etc. write short essays, no longer than 5 min, that they then read.  It can be reminiscences and memories, thoughts about religion, ethics, psychology, or just reflections over modern life or times passed.

I was just listening to a short essay about how we often plan for a better life and for things to happen, while life just happens around us.  The author quoted John Lennon: "Life is what happens when you plan other things." (Or something like that.).  Suddenly I saw something and stopped.  Turned off the iPod (which was on a very low volume anyway).  Beside me, in the forest, were thousands of migrating grackles.  And more were coming.  They were on the ground, creating an image of boiling leaves when they where throwing leaves up to look for something to eat.  Some were in the trees.  Some were flying up, some were flying down.  Pitch-black metallic bodies, with metallic blue heads, like dark shadows, just chirping and twittering a bit.  More and more were coming, with no end.  They came between the tree trunks from the north, thousands and thousands.

They got scared and all flew up as one from the ground and a giant swoosh of wing sounds.  Down again.  Over the road.  More grackles coming through the forest, for ten minutes at least. It was impossible to count them, too many.  I think there was about 50-100 crackles per second arriving from the north, and since this happened for many minutes, that are many thousands of crackles.  Giant large flocks, flying seemingly synchronized and random, maybe 50 000 birds?  Where did they come from, in December, and where are they going? The grackles left us months ago, so these must be from the north.

Two cars went by, as did two bicyclists in their silly streamlined spandex suits, but nobody stopped to look.  You couldn't miss the birds, the drivers just weren't interested.  And there is was, life happening, right in the forest, while most of us where busy planning for other things. It was a gorgeous experience, a happy event, something Bob Dylan could have written a song about.  The largest flock of grackles I have ever seen, and it just happened to fly by.

I think this is relevant in many ways these days because so many of us forget to really experience things.  Instead we read about them, watch them on YouTube, hear about them through Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail, but we forget to see the real things right in front of us.  It is like this comment by comedian Louis C K from a YouTube video - what if Jesus would come back to Earth, would people listen to him or just send instant text messages about their experiences? All this instantness is stupidifying and shallow, it makes us forget to think, listen, and reflect on what is really around us. 

For the record, I am not on Facebook, Twitter, I don't text (SMS), I have no cable TV, but I think the internet is good, in the right doses at the right times. But all this electronic, digital media and instant, stressful communication can destroy the real experiences and make us make stupid choices. We forget to see, listen, and think about the real things, since we are just rushing to the next thing online. It worries me profoundly. More on this later...

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