bird in the mall


THE NUMBER 9 BUS drops me in town and I find a place with tables and umbrellas in a shopping mall. Order something and open my bookmarked page: ‘Satisfaction is a moment of relief from the pressure of wanting.’ [‘Who Dies’ by Stephen and Ondrea Levine] That small moment of relief from the pressure of wanting comes with an increasing thirst for more.

Just then, a little bird appears at the table; hops over, quite close to me, where there are crumbs scattered, looks at me with a flick of the head, picks up a crumb and flies away, whrrrt. Mall sparrows are incredible, living in a totally artificial environment, high ceilings, glass roof, enclosed – this place doesn’t really look like what it’s trying to be; obviously artificial green foliage descending from stylized pillars made from polystyrene, surfaced with a resin that makes it look like marble.

I go on reading and the bird comes back, picks up another big crumb and flies off, whrrrt. I can see it going up to the top of a pillar and now perched on the plastic leaves, then disappears in the foliage. Hmmm… a nest constructed from woven drinking straws, paper serviettes, fragments of cash till receipts, hidden in the simulated foliage up there. Generations of sparrows and other creatures have lived inside these places for years, urban wild life, that has long since lost the way back to the ‘real’ world. The birds wouldn’t survive out there, they’ve adapted to conditions in here; proximity to table crumbs.

The small sparrow comes back to my table, takes another crumb, flies off again, whrrrt. The speed of the action… snatch, fly, eat. Feed the offspring and that’s how it evolved. The dukkha of endless searching is not an issue for this bold little bird. It has everything it needs maybe. Time for me to go. Across the road and the tram I need arrives at the stop, traffic lights change and I cross over and jump on. Light and easy, moving from one thing to the next. Not driven by wanting things to be how I’d like them to be. It’s got to do with the way you see it; the tram speeds up and glides along on smooth rails.

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‘When desire does not shape the mind and limit it to thought, consciousness becomes translucent. Entering into the spaciousness of the original mind, we become the vastness itself. Inseparable from all else, at one with all that is.’ [Stephen and Ondrea Levine, ‘Who Dies’, chapter 4: ‘The Thirsty Mind’]

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