Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And still the birds sing

Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy. Joseph Campbell

Every morning, rain or shine, the birds descend upon the feeder in the backyard and feast upon its bounty. And then, they retreat in joyful harmony to the bushes that border the yard and sing. And sing. And sing. Joyful. Spirited. Cheerful song.

War still goes on. Famine still ravages entire nations and disease continues to steal lives. And still the birds sing.

That is a profound truth for me. The birds sing no matter how the world turns. No matter my mood. My attitude. My disposition. The birds still sing.

I remember reading once about the Chinese government's killing of sparrows in Tibet. It wasn't their song that was at issue. It was their impact upon agriculture in China -- though part of me also believed that it was the song of joy they were trying to stifle. In their efforts to deal with one issue -- regardless of their violation of the moral, ethical, and political right to be there, they ended up doing untold damage to a nation and to the very crops they were trying to save. Reality was, beyond their song, the birds had an ecological and economical reason to be alive.

Now, this is not a political column and I don't pretend to have answers for one nation's occupation of another. I do know right from wrong. I do have a voice to sing out about injustice and no matter my opinion, my perspective, the birds still sing. Just not in Tibet. An entire nation has lost its voice. And that is wrong.

Voice. We all have one. Sometimes we use it sweetly. Sometimes we use it in anger. And sometimes, we let it die.

No matter your voice, it is unique. You have the right to be heard.

Around the world, entire nation's are being silenced through fear and intimidation. Through violence and war.

And the birds still sing.

Years ago, my ex-husband and I took Alexis and Liseanne to Waterton National Park for a camping trip. There had been several Grizzly Bear sightings in the Park and most of the accessible campgrounds were closed and those that weren't were full. We travelled further south and east, just beyond the Park boundaries and found a private campground along the river. We set up tent. Busied ourselves with organizing the site as the girls played along the river's age, always within easy and quick reach. Birds bobbed upon the river's surface. Flew about above our heads. Twittered joyfully in the trees. A bucolic scene.

When we got there, we didn't realize it was hunting season but quickly learned of its disquieting presence. Intermittent rifle shots could be heard far in the distance, interrupting the birds' song and our idyllic retreat. As each muffled shot rang out, my heart would flutter, the birds would scurry into the air, one body on a massive flock of wings whirring with one mind towards the safety of trees and shrubbery.

I remember looking up into the distance and watching a flock of Canada Geese flying south. Suddenly, a shot rang out and a bird plummeted from the sky. The flock kept moving, except one massive creature. She kept circling above where her mate had fallen. The sound of her plaintive voice was eerie and disturbing. She had lost her mate and couldn't stop crying. She circled throughout the day and into the night. And through it all we could here her plaintive cry of distress and sorrow.

When I was a young child I wanted to speak out against killing, against the things we do as human beings that harm and demean and abuse our co-inhabitors of this fragile ball called Earth. "You can't change the world," those who were older and whom, through their authority or position, I trusted to know best, told me. "It's just the way of the world. Just the way it's always been." "You're just one person. Your voice won't make a difference."

I am just one person. And my voice does make a difference.

So does yours.

When I was working with teenage prostitutes I remember some pundit saying, "It's the oldest profession. You can't stop it."

"Does its longevity make it right?" I asked him. "If I don't do something to give voice to the abuse, who will? If we all stay silent, do we not then become part of it by the complicit nature of our silence?"

If not me, who?

If not now, when?

We all have voices. Every voice that is silenced by violence, or silent through user option, is missed. Every voice that speaks out in hatred adds volumes to the war and violence in our world. And every voice that speaks out lovingly, that speaks up for those who struggle to find their voices, who speaks up for those who have been beaten down, adds volumes to the movement to create a more peaceful world.

One word can make a difference. One song can touch a heart, open a mind, set a spirit free.

We may not cure the world of sorrows, we can sing a song of joy for all the world to hear to remind each other that every voice makes a difference. Every voice counts. Even the sparrows who no longer sing in the land at the edge of the rising sun.

The question is: What are you doing with your voice? Are you willing to be heard?


Anonymous said...


Fabulous piece (yes, I would like to republish an edited version of it on 360boom) . . great material . .but a little too much wandering - 3 themes in one piece diminishes the key message methinks.


M.L. Gallagher said...

LOL -- YOu caught me! I knew I had a couple of themes going -- but I had computer glitching this morning and was long past my allotted blog writing time -- so I posted it.

Feel free to publish with appropriate edits.



Anonymous said...


I'm running it: 360boom FEATURE article, Sept. 30 STILL, THE BIRDS SING by Louise Gallagher


M.L. Gallagher said...

Thanks Mark -- I appreciate the way you reordered it. It sings beautifully!