What I learned from watching a flock of crows this week

What I learned from watching a flock of crows this week

The other day I was sitting in my bedroom, reading and taking a few notes, waiting for a too-hot bath to cool down.

Written down, this sounds astonishingly indulgent and luxuriating … sitting in my bedroom during the daytime! reading during the daytime! having a bath DURING THE DAYTIME! These are things I rarely did before, because of that inner voice that kept on telling me I couldn’t…

I can’t stop hearing that inner voice, and I will surely listen to it regularly, but I’ve decided that he’s not fully to be trusted. Hence, a bath in the daytime. (Note: I highly recommend it… I lost nothing, and gained plenty. Gifting yourself quietude and self-love is never time ill-spent.)

While sitting there, as my eye idled away from the book and towards the window, I noticed far off in the distance a flock of crows. They must have been crows (jackdaws or possibly rooks). They were too big too far away to be starlings.

What struck me about them was their movement. There were about 25 birds or so. They moved individually but as one. It called to mind the great occasional murmurations of starlings, but this was on a much smaller, more workaday scale.

They moved this way as one, then drawn by some force they darted that way. They flew east and west and up and down, and for two minutes I watched them closely before the flock slipped out of view.

I’m sure some ornithologist or group of aviary scientists would be able to tell me sagely why they do this. My amateur observation of why is that this is something essential to who they are. It is an expression of individuality within a collective. They are all individual birds, but in this showpiece they were working together, collaboratively, all the parts adding up to something new and whole.

Do they consider it? Do they ponder it, or mull over their role, or have spats about who does what? I doubt it. They just be. They act by compulsion from within.

And it struck me that humanity, at its raw, most powerful core, is like this too. Full self-expression — the expression of our innermost self, without filter or fear of judgment — in the service of others within the collective whole.

This sounds like something that’s both fundamental and natural to our survival and flourishing, both as individuals and as a collective. It’s also something that is both difficult and against our conditioning, as we project constructed versions of ourselves that we think fits the bill that society has demanded.

The journey to full self-expression in the service of others is perhaps a lifelong one. But every moment is an opportunity to take another step along that road.