Life The Birds
posted by November 21 at 13:45 PMon
At around noon, dark clouds gathered in the south and strong winds rushed through trees, raised dead leaves, and made pedestrians nervous—something could suddenly fall out of nowhere (a telephone pole, a crane, a satellite dish) and crush us out of our only existence. In the sky just above the statue of the 13th century Buddhist monk Shinran Shonin, on 15th and Main, a flock of seagulls seemed to be playing with the force of this wind, which, for reasons that might be geographic or purely meteorological, seemed stronger there than elsewhere. Each seagull would, with all its bird strength, fly into the wind and then, switching off its bird strength, be blown backward by the wind. The wind not only blew the bird back like a lifeless kite but also, after a moment, sent it tumbling earthward. Just before crashing in the park that was watched by the stone form of Shonin, the seagull would re-ignite its strength and fly up and into the wind again. These birds were enjoying themselves. But even more than that: they were philosophizing. It was Plato who called philosophy “the practice of death,” practicing for the moment the soul is liberated from the body and returns to the forms, the light, to the eternal, the Sukhavati (the Pure Land of Shonin’s Buddhism). But this death practicing is not sad business, it is, as the birds make so clear, joyful and fun.