Stewardship

Birds On Wires

 

I always enjoy seeing how birds space themselves along a wire. How do they know when close is too close? I’ve watched them land in a space that seems wide enough to maintain a proper distance between them and their neighbors, but if it isn’t enough they’ll adjust. And then there’s the individual, seen here, who prefers to be alone. Or is he just waiting for a spot?

In this image, the additional elements of sky and jet trail evoke in me a sense of how the earth is filling up. Is there space enough for everyone? Will there be in the future, considering the trend in population growth? We’re definitely crowding out wildlife. “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Considering the increasing loss of habitat, where can the birds and animals go? Where can we go to avoid traffic, street noise, apocalyptic movies and television hype?

Some folks say the planet is finite and fear that, if we keep multiplying, the quality of life for everyone will deteriorate until the earth becomes uninhabitable. My preferred perspective has two parts: that expansion is the norm at all levels, from atoms to universe, and life makes more of itself while matter transforms to accommodate increasing complexity. As we know from the tumultuous geologic past and the history of civilizations, evolution does not favor individuals. Rather, it favors expansion—now most noticeably from a human perspective in the form of increased complexity and consciousness. So I tend to view the increasing human use of space on earth and everything that’s expanding within it, as life’s way of providing the pressure we need in order to learn effective and responsible planetary management. Stewardship. It can be uncomfortable and chaotic, even tragic, but sometimes that’s how we learn.

Like those birds on the wire, we are all watching and seeking in our own way, relating and adjusting to life as it becomes more complex. Intolerance, the clash of ideologies, environmental irresponsibility and climate change are some of the predominant and long-term forces that are providing the impetus for humanity to learn and implement appropriate and responsible management systems and processes that are life affirming and sustainable—at every level and in the long term. Evolution favors the big picture. It brought forth life and intelligence. Now it’s up to us to care of its parts, the members that have the capacity to envision and co-create. As the song goes, “We have the whole world in our hands.” Is there enough space for everyone? Will the apocalyptic movies and television programs contributing to a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or will we build a world that works for everyone, in harmony with nature? No doubt, one way for some of us to learn, is to see what we don’t want.

From a whole-systems evolutionary perspective, individual integrity and species survival have less to do with fitness, wealth, governance or who has the most or “badder” weapons of mass destruction. It has far more to do with how we perceive and think about ourselves, each other and the world. Breakdowns such as war, crime, corruption and even domestic violence and incivility are telling us current modes of thinking are not working. They’re leading us down a more divisive and destructive path.

Viewed constructively, the established paradigms of separation and fear are forces that are pressuring us to adopt a shift toward unity and love., from “subdue the earth; me first, last and always,” to “respect the earth; we will prosper together or perish together.” Beyond sentimentality and wishful thinking, love, compassion and collaboration are the practical and realistic forces that encourage us to respond more appropriately to change. They transcend narrow and limited, short term, winners and loosers thinking. Crisis precedes transformation, it doesn’t block it. The pressures we’re experiencing may be nature’s way of showing us how we’ve been creating, prompting us to change course so we can build a world that works for everyone including the lions and tigers and bears. And birds. Oh yes!

Stewardship is the willingness to be accountable for the well-being of a larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us.

Peter Block

About This Image

Birds On A Wire

File: DC 5994

Bloomington Rd. Champaign, IL

I’d been traveling the county roads of mid-state Illinois, photographing fields of corn and cottony clouds. Toward evening I stopped to photograph the reflection of cattails in a small corporate pond. The water was still and with the sun going down, the reflections were dark and pristine. As often happens, I walked back to the car and saw another opportunity—the birds on wires.

My first thought was to wait until the jet trail passed before taking the shot, but then I was in place and the ISO setting on the digital camera was proper for the darkening sky, so I made some exposures with and without the jet trail.

When I viewed the images on the computer, the jet trail was barely visible and the sky was brighter than expected. Using the adjustment tools in Lightroom, I was able to darken the sky at the top—enough for the jet trail to show—and increase the saturation of the magenta sky so there was some blended separation from the blue clouds.

All the while I was photographing, the birds kept changing position—and the dynamic of the shot. Fortunately, this one had all the elements aligned. And that’s what separated it from the other exposures, making it evocative for me. The little guy on the wire all by himself was a gift. With him out of the picture, my contemplation would likely have been very different. It’s a tiny difference that made a big difference.

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