This morning, while on my morning walk through the city, the birds were singing and chattering in the silence left by the departed humans. Only the construction workers building empty buildings of the future, were out working. It has been that kind of morning. Grey, but still revealing spring bit by bit.
The title of this piece was inspired by the birds and by a jazz album of the same name that came out in the seventies. I always liked the name better than the record though I’m pretty sure I’ll love it when I listen later (I can’t listen to music when I write, I think my mind follows one rhythm or another but not both).
So I Googled Conference of the Birds because I vaguely remembered it was an Arabic poem, and it turned out to be crazily relevant to our times. The birds decide they need a leader and the wisest bird, a hoopoe, suggests they find a wise sage and describes the quest they must undertake:
“The hoopoe tells the birds that they have to cross seven valleys in order to reach the abode of Simorgh. These valleys are as follows:
“1. Valley of the Quest, where the Wayfarer begins by casting aside all dogma, belief, and unbelief.
2. Valley of Love, where reason is abandoned for the sake of love.
3. Valley of Knowledge, where worldly knowledge becomes utterly useless.
4. Valley of Detachment, where all desires and attachments to the world are given up. Here, what is assumed to be “reality” vanishes.
5. Valley of Unity, where the Wayfarer realizes that everything is connected and that the Beloved is beyond everything, including harmony, multiplicity, and eternity.
6. Valley of Wonderment, where, entranced by the beauty of the Beloved, the Wayfarer becomes perplexed and, steeped in awe, finds that he or she has never known or understood anything.
7. Valley of Poverty and Annihilation, where the self disappears into the universe and the Wayfarer becomes timeless, existing in both the past and the future.”
This terrifies the birds, some of whom die of fright. But this is the hero’s journey, the classic rite of passage. And I couldn’t help but see how we all are traveling a similar path, though many deny it right now and some may die of fright, though I don’t think that is really a thing.
We are witnessing a major failure of compassion going on in Washington where politicians will sacrifice lives to further their ambition. How can we not feel we are in dark, mythological times?
Gear up, it’s only seven valleys. Let’s go.