POSTCARD #184: Geneva, Switzerland, August 28, 2012: The number 9 bus drops me near a shopping mall coffee shop. Order something and open my book: ‘Satisfaction is a moment of relief from the pressure of wanting.’ That instant relief from the pressure of wanting comes with a 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; evolved as these urban forms in an artificial environment that doesn’t really look like what it’s trying to be; high ceilings, glass roof, obviously ‘real’ foliage descending from stylized pillars made from polystyrene, surfaced with a resin that makes it look like marble – a hybrid reality form, an act, stage-set for a performance.
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, long since lost the inclination to find the way out. 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 here. The dukkha of endless searching is not an issue for this bold little bird. It has everything it needs. I wait to see if it comes again, there are still crumbs, more than enough. But I don’t see it again, time for me to go. Across the road and the tram I need is arriving at the stop, traffic lights change just at the right time, 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 and never quite getting enough. It’s got to do with the way you see it; the tram speeds up and glides along on smooth rails.
‘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’]
Love your blog, I had spent a lot of time at monasteries in Ajahn Chah’s tradition but not in Thailand. Your post and photo make me want to share a quote from Chuang Tzu,“The tailor bird builds her nest in deep woods, she uses no more than one branch.” and Stephen Levine’s “Sipping the nectar of existence, we stop the war.” It also reminds me of the Bible’s teachings of heaven providing for the birds and clothing the lilies.
You must know Amaravati and Harnham, Dhammapala, Hartridge, Chithurst… I’ve stayed in all of these. There’s something about the simplicity of it, hard to see but it’s just there. Thanks for visiting…
Visuals swept me away with your post…Happy New Year Tiramit.
Thanks David and Best Wishes to you for 2016
Thanks for sharing this story. What a funny bird’s nest! They take everything they can get.
Happy New Year!
It’s the ‘grasping’… once seen, there’s already more than enough, and no need to hold on.
Mall and factory birds are cool! Their resourcefulness does reflect an intelligence and tenacity that we humans are often unappreciative of.
Resourcefulness, yes we have to admire them for that and there’s tremendous skill, they only take as much as they need, I noticed – although some of them were pretty chubby
Your posts inspire me to really notice the birds around me. So fascinating!
Wishing you good health and all the best for this new year T!
I must have a thing about birds, ever since the months in Switzerland with them on my balcony and large glass windows through which we could see everything and feel they were part of the room, kinda scary even; ‘wild’ life…
Thanks for your good wishes and all the best for 2016
I have mixed feeling about birds that are so comfortable with humans that they come so close. I like it that I can observe them close up but it feels unnatural,
Something about the fundamental awareness of being with a different species…
Nice prose as always tiramit, a pleasure to read your post, is almost poetic. About the effects to be desireless, as is stated by the quote “When desire does not shape the mind … we become the vastness itself” I think there are not so nice, it depends on our gradual, balanced development: only by minimizing our desires we can’t feel wholeness, is an important step, but only a step. I’m sure you already know it, but I I felt compelled to say it,because I’ve lived such state, without desires but also without right mindfulness, not a desirable state. Best wishes for 2016!
Nice to hear from you again and best wishes to you also for 2016. I agree, the quote illustrates what may be only a momentary experience – the concept of desirelessness and doesn’t refer to vibhava tanha. For some people this could be the tipping point, but as you’re saying here I think, only by minimizing our desires can we feel wholeness through a gradual, balanced development in the longer term.
You are invited to participate in the 3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge.
Beautiful post!! And wonderful quote!
Thanks Ellen for popping up like a bird all over my recent posts 🙂
To my delight. Trying to come back a little to my favorites.
There’s definitely something bird-like about this suddenly appearing on a tiny twig of a branch, swivel the head arournd, then whrrrrt away…