The Raven’s View

In the world of Spirit, science seeks to prove that things exist. Maybe we should operate on the assumption that things exist and then prove that they do NOT. It’s our lack of imagination, gross materialism, and anthropocentrism that is the root of the mass destruction of our planet and many of the species who cohabit with us.

This theme was driven home to me in two books I recently read with similar subject matters. I am very connected with birds, especially Ravens and Parrots. The books are, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill by Mark Bittner (also a movie) and Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich. Both are about observation of wild birds, but from a different perspective.

Bittner’s book describes his life in as a wandering sadhu in San Francisco in the 70’s until he was about 40 and found a place to live on Telegraph Hill. He came upon a flock of wild parrots (specifically, Conures) and spend a lot of his unemployed time feeding them. He began to form bonds with individuals, and ultimately comes to some interesting conclusions about life, oneness and his own spirituality.

Heinrich’s book is about a scientist studying wild Ravens. He does the typical scientist thing: studies, blinds, control groups, etc. He does some experiments with the Raven’s that I find a bit calloused, such as tying a string around the crops of babies to contain the food in the crop so that he can analyze what they’ve been fed by their parents. I couldn’t help but wonder, is it really necessary for him to know that?

I was struck by the view presented in this book…. even if he was looking at the soul at the Raven, even if he was seeing intelligence, he wanted to say that there was another reason for it. It was a random act. The Raven was bored. Time and time again he sought to explain away what was in front of his very nose. He reflected the usual scientist’s position that unless something can be empirically proven, it doesn’t exist.

Once we thought the world was flat because that is the way it appeared. Since no one had a boat that could make it to “the end of the world”, that was the accepted view. But it wasn’t true, as hindsight proved.

Our definitions of “intelligence”, “consciousness” and “soul” are limited by our (lack of) imagination. We have a decidedly anthropocentric viewpoint of our world. It is this viewpoint that has caused us to filter our decisions through our needs, to look down at other creatures and life forms, and to tread a path of wanton destruction on this planet that seems to know no bounds. Everything is viewed through our very limited understanding.

Bittner, on the other hand, had no scientific training, so he experienced the parrots just as they are. “I was absentmindedly handing them seeds while trying to come up with the concept of what their minds are like. I was looking at their eyes when I remember that everything is supposed to be God. If that is true, then logically, the parrots are God, too, and their consciousness is part of God’s consciousness. Every set of eyes is part of God’s vision, and every viewpoint in this universe is God’s viewpoint. I’d heard this idea many times, but this was the first time I was able to envision it.”

Despite the scientific bravado, I think that Heinrich came away with a certain love for the Ravens he studied. I just couldn’t help but wish that our scientists and biologists would come away from some of their studies with an understanding of our oneness with all creatures. I think that it would help to curtail some of our wanton destruction of this planet and the mass extinction of species caused by human expansion.

It’s this attitude of human superiority, anthropocentrism, that causes our gross exploitation of the resources of the planet and the land itself. Believing it’s our entitlement, we continue to rape the planet of Her resources, pollute Her with our garbage, cause the extinction of countless species, and cause massive oil spills that will pollute the ocean and the coastlines for countless years to come. We are all part of a great ecosystem where everything affects everything else. I do hope we all wake up before it’s too late.

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