Thursday, October 1, 2009

My scientist finds my internal God again with birds

For my friends and birders:

I do not want to delve too deeply into the seemingly dichotomous discussion between religion and science. I have always been the "scientist" and fully believe in evolution and the teachings of science. I also was raised by parents who hauled me off to church each Sunday, and I remember and practice lessons of the church. Without going "too religious" here, I believe that the basic teachings of most religions in the USA encompass the Ten Commandments and the "Golden Rule". I just wish people today would take the time to slow down from their immediate lives and remember what I hope they were exposed to as children, and to remember it is their job to expose their own kids to our sacred and moral values! The values are not on the cell phone or TV or a gaming device that receives Internet! The values (code of ethics and beliefs) should not primarily be from their peers! It is the nuclear family (read: Parents!) that must pass on the values of our society to their own family. The nuclear values will help your kids live a "better life" - whatever that means - and you will certainly help them succeed in life by not only giving them values, but also by living the values you teach!

Following church, we often went to explore the beaches or woods around the San Francisco Bay area - bringing a much broader world ("Nature") into the context of the day. Not only are "church values" important, but the values that come from an appreciation of "Nature" are essential for a fully grounded fulfilling human experience .

Hey! Even if your kids become a scientist like myself, they still might wonder about (and ask about, and study...) the origin of the "Wonders of Nature". I feel comfortable with my seeming dichotomy. As a scientist, I could (given time...) document the world back to the "Big Bang", yet I will always wonder ( awe and true wonder!) who provided the "combustibles" and "lit the fuse"!!! Yes, I see no real dichotomy between religion and science! We must appreciate the teachings of science! Our lives, our health, our environment, and our futures are based on science! We must support, fund and believe in scientific accomplishments!

Yet, we also should not ever dismiss the possibility of a "grander scheme", and certainly we must not ever fail to remember the teachings from our childhood that basically set the stage for us to be fully functional, caring, and productive adults with a destination beyond our immediate selves!  (And that applies equally to religion and science!)

Thus - having "set the stage" by describing my internal apparent conflict, I return to birding!

I took Judy to Kensington Metro Park today. I wanted to wait for Saturday when a local birding chapter was going there, but the weather looked "iffy" for Saturday and we are "fair weather birders" (largely because we want to take our cameras). Judy has been pestering me to go back there ever since she saw the Sandhill Cranes "up close and personal". (... and, yes, we saw them again today! Really cool birds!). I have waited. Anyway, today was a such a great wonderful early fall day in Michigan, I just could not sit at home! So we went! My "story" follows. There are few things in life that I could ever buy or do that would compare with my decision! I attach a couple of pics that were worth the trip, yet they represent a very minute statement about our experience.

I need to note that I "just happened to have" a small sandwich bag of the best bird seed (oilers, peanuts, shelled sunflower seeds,etc.) in my pocket. I do not normally advocate feeding birds in natural aeas and respect the need to post and enforce feeding restrictions (because the general public does not understand and feeds preserved, salted "packaged crap" if allowed - really, it harms the birds!). Done. Enough with "disclaimers". On with "the story" I have been waiting to tell. My story today expresses great joy. It also led me to consider again  - and helped resolve - my feelings about my internal beliefs as I have noted. Whew!
There is nothing in my vocabularly to describe the experience of having a representative of God's Nature land on your hand! Today, Judy had her first experience and I had only my second with an "outside" bird landing on our hands. While walking in the Kensington forest, we saw chickadee activity and "pished" while holding out our hands with bird seed. The chickadees responded!  They alighted and fed from our hands!

The chickadees are essentially weightless! If you were blindfolded, you would not even notice their presence other than possibly a slight tap as they plucked a seed.

Judy experiences a Chickadee!

We normally see birds as "things". We photograph them. We describe them. We study them. We sometimes even think we know them. We love them deeply, yet we hardly ever have a more personal relationship with them!

Yet, if you are in the right place, and fill your hand with good seeds, and extend your arm, you may just experience life as you have never studied it or known it before!

The experience is to feel no weight, yet to be intimately face to face with one of God's creations literally in the palm of your hand! You look each other in the eye! You share the experience of giving and receiving! (And, I note - who is really the giving party? Certainly we received far more than we gave!)

This is an entirely new side of Nature for even an experienced biologist and photographer such as myself! I was truly overwhelmed, and hence sharing tonight. I did it for Judy so she could learn some of my appreciation of Nature (I thought there was a good chance it might happen at that location known for hand-feeding, and it had happened once before ...), yet my personal rewards were far more than I had anticipated.

Yes, we snapped a few pics. Yet the pics and words cannot describe the brief moments we shared with the birds. These memories and our feelings of the experience will far outlive so many other memories of our lives! What an experience! And, truly inspirational!

I feel like I may have not described it well. Yet, until you have the expeience of having a "lighter than air living being" land on your hand you will not really know of what I speak!

Scientist: Chickadees came to our outstretched hands when we "pished" (a sound) at them with hands outstretched with good food. They are apparently accustomed to this here. It was expected.

Person: Blessed be the feathered creatures of God's earth for they lack nary any weight or substance, yet they bring God's life to your palm and will give you memories, and with one visit will touch you and remind you of your place in the Universe and lift your hope and spirits forever! My emotional reaction surprised me!

I really have no better way to explain it!

As a side note, why did I try it anyway the first time? I saw a note from a SE Michigan birder (appropriately it was Joy!) and just happened to have a few sunflower seeds in my pocket when I walked the trails the first time we went there. Along the trail, I was accosted by two chickadees who seemed to demand something from me. I fished my pocket, held out my hand, and they came to me and I briefly fed. I quickly came to believe! I wanted to share this with Judy today and wound up not only with her new experience, but an entirely new insight into myself!!

Yes, I believe! (all of the above...) I have no conflict! This experience reinforced the fact I do not need to "pick one" (science vs. religion). I wanted to share this. I hope you appreciate that fact there is really no dichotomy! And, I hope you continue to enjoy the richness of life your teachings and experiences provide to you!

"Dr. Bob"


Marilynn said...

Yes, the miracles are out in Nature, not in church!

David A said...

Hi Dr. Bob,

I visited Kensington about this time last year with my two daughters, Rebecca (12) and Rachel (10). Like you, I read about it on the umich birders forum. Even though I have been to Kensington over a hundred times in my life, I never knew about this trail.

I can definitely empathize with your sense that the simple act of having a chickadee land on your hand is somehow more than the sum of its parts.

You may feel like you ramble, but I enjoy your posts. I was telling my wife, Sue, this morning that it is a real joy to share your child-like enthusiasm and openness to experience. It is easy to get cynical as we age. It is much harder to retain the wonder we experienced in our first few years of exploring the world.

Ramble on, Dr. Bob!