The other day I ran across an NPR post on Facebook about the secret to successful murmuration among flocking birds (Video: Swooping Starlings In Murmuration – NPR). While I have seen birds display this behavior along the Interstate 5 corridor of Northern California, I didn’t know what it is called, and most certainly I didn’t know how it is even possible to fly like this without a massive crash or two among the participants. The behavior/ flight patterns are mesmerizing and absolutely a joy to behold.
As I watched the video and read the intriguing explanation as to how such coordinated and seemingly choreographed events are even possible I scarcely breathed. The author explained,
“A few years ago, George F. Young and his colleagues investigated starlings’ “remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information” — a nice description of what goes on in a murmuration.
Going in, Young et al. already knew that starlings pay attention to a fixed number of their neighbors in the flock, regardless of flock density — seven, to be exact. Their new contribution was to figure out that “when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”
And like a bell ringing in the dark, I was sharply oriented into the present and as suddenly as metaphoric sound traveled through my brain, I understood what has to happen in a post-Trump era of fear and confusion. This awareness while perhaps not novel to the grass roots organizers of days ago, or even to those pulling us together for Marches on Capitols in the present, was like a bolt of lightening to me; the person who is not an organizer of large numbers of people. It simply made perfect sense in the realm of the small, defined and finite groups of people to whom I belong.
The key words, “when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”
Eureka! This is what is missing for many of us feeling overwhelmed and alone! We are missing each other. We feel alone because we are ignoring those flying among us, also feeling alone. The key to successful murmuration is relying on 6 or 7 of those closest to us, our neighbors by proximity or ideation; and they relying on their closest 6 or 7.
We shall not stand silent. We shall not merely watch as others crash against each other.
We shall not try to work alone and feel hopeless. We will seek to help where help is needed by lessening the load as possible.
We shall send our thoughts into the universe and aim them at the people who are struggling to make sense of the irrational and nonsensical.
We shall share our ideas or even just fleeting thoughts with those closest to our whispers so that perhaps they can whisper back what we need to hear in order to continue forward.
We shall listen to the whispers of others so that we too can lend support to keep the group together and moving in the same direction. We each will contribute our knowledge.
We shall listen to the relayed whispers of those farther away from our immediate flock so that our small community can absorb any lessons delivered to us by distant communities, who while far away, are still striving to travel in the same direction as we.
For it is in listening that we hear our own voices echoed in the heart chambers of others. It is in observing that we are supported by the actions of those far from us, similarly struggling to fly in beauty and cohesion.
This is what we must do…..it’s nothing just created. I’ve heard it time and again in the intimate bosom of my closest friends via Walt Whitman:
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
We just have to do it amongst 7 of our closest friends, and they, among theirs, and they among theirs.
Soon the murmuration will lift us above the fog of egotistical tyrants.
The murmuration will itself guide us to the best solution for ALL of us and not just some of us.
The murmuration will allow us to discuss without judgment and to act altruistically.
The murmuration requires inclusivism to be successful. The murmuration will allow us to change course as needed and to create beauty along the away; leaving no one behind.
So let the whispering begin. Listen to girls. Listen to women. Listen to those different than ourselves. Listen and whisper. Pass it on with clarity and love, for this is what it means to be moved by the Spirit.
Together we shall soar in beauty and truth, for the good of us all.
Thanks for being my friends.