Monday, April 14, 2014

The finches have an alternate lifestyle

The whole idea was to have these gorgeous little finches in this gorgeous little cage just hanging above the altar and all just being gorgeous little examples of nature, simplicity, purpose and community. Instead, I have a touch of Peyton Place with a finch that very well might be related to Paula Dean living above the passageway to the living space. It would appear to be only incidentally that the statue of Kwan Yin floats nearby - she either has no interest, or no influence over the melodrama behind bars that occurs on a daily basis in that corner of the world.
What it was supposed to be like
Remember when I was building up to getting the finches? The excitement, the preparation. All of the research into their history and meaning; their purpose and role in teaching about community and life. They would arrive and by nature and genetics be driven to not only pair off, but to live in a cohesive group. They would be individuals, but trumped by group mind when needed. Birds of warning, they are called, because of the depth they can reveal our own social behavior.

The depth I wasn't expecting
Depth is good, depth is great. I have no hair ergo I must be very spiritually deep. The reality is that while shaving one's head may be a symbol of commitment, the reality is more that you are too busy to worry about appearances. How very Buddhists. Things change and now I am growing my hair back in for a reason. It is called doing what is necessary in the moment - how very Buddhist. However, while me and my follicles represent a level of down and dirty practicality in my life - I, like everyone else, want my heroes and examples to somehow be above all of it. I think this is why we do best with dead people as heroes. There is a limit to how much we can learn about their inability to keep their whites white or the fact that they have a think about napkins on a table.  There are endless reminders in the sutras and teaching texts that teachers and leaders of all feathers are very real. It is also always cautioned that death does not undo the ugliness that life makes.

So with my finches, my teachers, my examples of social community - I expected something....higher...loftier...winged flight that left not just the ground but the very mundane of interaction. How silly of me. If they are meant to reveal who we are, then guess whose reflection they will show?

What happened to genetics?
So I have four and they should have paired off, even though they were all male. They are genetically driven to pair off. I had two wicker nests set up, 2 finches per nest - what a deal. Now....I have three finches living an alternate lifestyle in one nest and the little white one (nicknamed 'the ass') is living by himself. One of my "male" finches is laying eggs everywhere but the nest and twice a day they chase the little ass around and he flies and flies as if his life depended on it. Just when I think I should intervene, all is quiet and peaceful; until I catch the little ass out when the others are in nest sitting under their wicker home and pulling the cotton out between the spaces on the bottom.

They are and remain, my greatest and most joyful lesson. As well as the hardest to take for what they do reveal about me. They are teaching me when to leave well enough alone and let people struggle for themselves, and when it is effective to intervene. We have been having a lot of discussions lately about how the last person you want showing up to lend a hand is the person who "has something to give" or is there "to help." The best assistance comes from the one who simply makes themselves available and bends to the need of the moment. In most of what is needed in this world, there is less a need for visions of solutions and perfect worlds and more need of people willing to listen to what would help someone take the next step. Less deciding for others what will make their lives worthwhile and more asking them what they value. This, I am learning from the finches, is how healthy communities are made - not through direction but through collaboration - collaboration that doesn't always imply everyone gets along.