Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Blue bird, beggars and beliefs

Photo: The blue starling which keeps banging on our window - trying to connect with what it believes is another bird but which is really itself.

Synchronicities abound in life and more so when we become aware of them. There is a little bird, gloriously, shimmeringly blue, which bangs on our lounge-room window at various times of the day.

Peeking through another window we can see it fly from a bush and bang into the window. There is a shade film on the window and so it has a mirror effect and clearly the bird believes that there is another bird, a mate perhaps, when there is only a reflection. The bird is of course in 'love' with itself, or 'attracted' to itself, and does not know it!

That may be more common than we know. It is said that we are attracted to people who look 'similar' to us and that the marriages between couples who look 'alike' are more likely to be successful. I have no fixed opinion on it but in general, have observed, that there is some truth to this although it is not an absolute given.

So what did the little bird, banging into the window and possibly hurting itself, because it was fooled into thinking the image it saw was of another, possibly mean? It has been a time of pondering relationships with others and with Self and also a time when illusion, or perception, from others, has created 'false images' and deceptions.

The bird was not hurt and it has been doing this for some weeks and will no doubt continue to do it for some time more, so perhaps it symbolises no more than the fact that we can find 'mirroring' in the strangest of places and it can lead us astray more than we know. Is the bird, a symbol of spirit and spirituality, 'banging its head against something of a brick wall,' or is it simply responding to an inner rhythm and need, which, while it appears foolish to those human beings looking on, serves a valuable purpose we do not and cannot know?

Perhaps all that mattered was the fact that it gave us the opportunity, to observe, up close, a truly beautiful little bird in ways which would not normally be possible. It is a reminder of how often we fail to 'see' that which is around us; we fail to truly observe, skimming in essence, through and on our world. Like Slow Food there is a place for and a practice in Slow Life which is less easy to find in the busy rush of the modern world.

And in Malawi, things tend to be slower than elsewhere because the general lack of efficiency means things happen slowly, if they happen at all. Power cuts slow things down. Incompetence slows things down. Inefficiency and disinterest slow things down. It is a wonder sometimes that anything much happens at all. But it does, and perhaps like the bird, banging away at the window, it happens as it should, in its own time, for reasons that we do not know. I like to think so anyway.

There is a saying that 'beggars can't be choosing' and I suspect that applies to life in metaphorical as well as literal sense. There are a few more beggars on the streets of Malawi these days although not as many as there might be. The maize harvest has been good and there are signs of improvement, which, if they continue, will make Malawi better than it has been for a long time.

While some things have improved in Malawi, there are ominous signs that not as much has changed as one might have hoped. The power cuts have begun again and are worse. Every day, pretty much, for from four to eight hours which is an increase on the old way of being of probably four hours each time. Sigh. Still, diesel, for the moment is not in short supply and that is good because our batteries are nearly dead and must be replaced and the inverter cannot function for much more than an hour when we lose power and so we have to turn on the generator to keep things operating.

Perhaps we knew that things might get worse because we bought a barbecue a few weeks ago and it is a godsend. We also found small gas cans for our portable camping gas hob so between the barbecue which uses briquettes and the hob, we can at least cook if we are low on diesel. The camping hob came up with our goods from Perth and I honestly cannot remember why we bought it in the first place but it is invaluable here. As we so often say:'we have everything we need, somewhere.' Luckily in this case the 'somewhere' is where we are.

It is the dry season at present although we have had grey skies and the occasional rainfull which is unusual. Then again, they had light snow in Johannesburg today which is even more unusual. Well, unusual when assessed in light of the brevity of human history. It may not be the least bit unusual in terms of earth history.

We are Out of Africa in about a week and needing it as one does. Life muddles along pleasantly enough and you only realise you need to get out when some small thing happens and you want to scream, smash something, kick the door in reactions far beyond anything the incident could trigger. It's cumulative. The small frustrations, disappointments, tediums, annoyances, inefficiencies and trials of living in the Third World.

I wonder why it is this way. I feel okay - I am happy with my life - I find it fascinating, interesting, stimulating and yet clearly at subliminal levels it is still frustrating. Perhaps it is more frustrating because one knows there are other ways; other options and that the world does not have to be a place of injustice, incompetence, fear, cruelty and greed. You can get along with it and get by with it, but knowing that there are other places in the world which are not like this, must, by necessity create greater frustration if not anger with the way things work here.

'Cabin fever' is part and parcel for the course living in Africa! And the 'need' to get out only seems to manifest when you know that you are. I used to say that people visiting India had a ticket in their pocket which meant they would never react or relate to it in the way that those who lived there did. Africa is the same. Visiting is not living! It's the difference between dipping a toe into a pool as opposed to diving in and swimming a few lengths. A taste, not a meal. A sip, not a gulp. A tinkering, not a 'taking it apart' to really find out how it works.

But then life brings us what we need and clearly the Third World meal is something I need more than others. I have no doubt it nourishes and supports and serves purpose in ways I do not perhaps know. Just as the blue bird banging its head against the window seems without purpose, if not 'painful,' so too can my experience here, except on both counts it does serve purpose and the task is not necessarily to know what that purpose is, but simply to appreciate that it exists and to appreciate the experience for itself.


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