The Parrot

This piece was written in Ithaca, in 2005, and is as accurate a phenomenological report of an actual mental response to real events as I am capable of. At the time I thought — and still do — that a very careful observation of your own thoughts as you react to sensory input is a very useful thing. Not quite meditation. Call it meditative observation. Stylistically, it is inspired by Camus.

-1-

From my window table on the second floor of the coffee shop, looking down at the Commons – the determinedly medieval, pedestrians-only town square of Ithaca – I saw the parrot arrive. It was large and a slightly dirty white. Its owner carefully set a chair on top of a table and the parrot hopped from his finger onto the back of the chair and perched there comfortably. I suppose the owner wanted to keep it out of the reach of any dogs. He gave it a quick second glance, and stepped inside a restaurant. The parrot ruffled its feathers a bit, looked around, preened a little (showing off some unexpected pink plumage on the back of its neck, hidden in the dirty white), and then settled down

-2-

The Ithaca Commons is a ring of shops and restaurants around an open courtyard, occupying the city block between Green and Seneca streets. The shops are an artfully arranged sequence of mildly unexpected experiences. Tacky used clothing and dollar stores sit next to upscale kitchen stores, craft shops, art galleries and expensive restaurants. The central promise of the Commons is that of the Spectacle. Street musicians, hippies meditatively kicking hackeysacks, the occasional juggler – they all make their appearance in the Commons. A visibly political Tibetan store and experiential restaurants such as the Moosewood and Just a Taste complete the tableau. The Commons is crafted for the American liberal, a cocoon that gently reinforces her self-image as a more evolved, aware, and thoughtful creature than her parochial suburban, beer-guzzling, football-fan cousin.

But in any world, the presence of a large, dirty-white parrot is a definite non sequitur. Wall Street, Hollywood, sell-out Suburbia (and Exurbia), Southern Baptist congregations and the liberal Ithaca Commons, are all equally at a loss to accommodate the parrot. The grab-bag of varied oppressed Others that mill about University towns, I suspect, would also be at a loss to handle the parrot. Those of us who claim to be governed by eclectic, deeply considered and original world views – and I count myself among these – are also forced to admit that for all our treasured iconoclasm, we cannot accommodate the parrot. We are therefore forced, out of sheer necessity, to look at it.

-3-

I am no deep observer of real life. When I work in public areas, it is for the steady supply of low-intensity human contact. The mass of unremarkable humanity does not register, except as a pleasant backdrop. Pretty girls, babies, dogs and notably ugly people do register, leaving a gentle and piquant trail of unexamined visual flavor. I am not a true people watcher.

I didn’t quite know what to do with a parrot though, so I was forced to look at it. It triggered no runaway train of thought, so for a while it was just me and the parrot, separated by a pane of glass, and about fifty yards. The impression of “parrot,” did not fade, get filtered away or get overwhelmed by free association. It lingered long enough that I began to watch. The parrot seemed happy. It sat there, awake, but not alert or wary. It looked straight ahead. Presumably it did not find the scene interesting enough to strain its neck.

-4-

I wonder how Hegel would have reacted to the parrot. Would it have triggered, through some improbable sequence of dominoes, a fresh insight concerning the Self and the Other? Would he have gazed inattentively at the parrot and chased gleefully after some new thought (“bird… freedom …”)? Would it be just another little nudge powering the inexorable progress of his snowballing philosophy of everything? Would it occur to him that whatever lofty abstractions it triggered, the parrot qua parrot would not make an appearance in the edifice he was building? Sadly, I must suspect that the thought would not have occurred to him.

To be fair, I must also suspect that the existentialists would have done no better, despite their protestations to the contrary. I must conclude that Camus would have looked at the parrot and instantly exulted, “There it is, the Absurd manifest!” The parrot would again have been lost, subsumed here by the Absurd. As far as the parrot is concerned, Camus and Hegel differ little.

-5-

The parrot, without its owner, was sitting there, qua parrot, indifferent to its impact on passersby. Most people looked at it. Some did a double take. One man stopped, turned to face it squarely and stared at it for a minute, as if waiting for it to acquire some significance. A decrepit old man in a wheelchair rolled by, glancing at it with a painfully slow motion, before letting his head sink again to his chest, weighed down, I suppose, by illness and unseen burdens. A black mother, pushing a stroller, walked by, glancing at the parrot without interest. I wonder why black registered.

A pretty girl in faded red pants stepped out of a shop, talking on a cell phone. She took in the parrot in the absent-mindedly, absorbed several network hops away. She exited my field of vision, stage right, but returned a few minutes later. This time she stopped and genuinely stared at the parrot before heading back into a shop.

A hippie, dread-locked and tie-dyed, stopped and grinned delightedly at it. There was no discernible transition from “see” to “grin,” and something about that bothered me. There was something scripted about the response; her engagement of the parrot was not authentic.

-6-

You know you have are a slave to the life of the mind if a phrase like “her engagement of the parrot was not authentic” crosses your mind quite naturally, and it takes you more than a minute to laugh.

But consider what it means if your response to the parrot is measured, seemingly scripted, or otherwise deliberate in any way. A mind with ‘parrot’ on it should not look like anything recognizable. A frown might mean you are trying to rapidly assimilate the parrot – but in that case, the process of assimilation, rather than the parrot itself, must be occupying your mind. You cannot, at the same time, think “parrot” and engage in the task of wrapping up the parrot in a bundle of associations and channeling it to the right areas of long-term memory. The hippie’s grin is equally symptomatic of a non-parrot awareness. The hippie is probably self-indulgently enjoying a validated feeling of “one must be one with nature” or something along those lines.

So an authentic engagement of the parrot must have an element of the unscripted in it. It can neither be deliberative, nor reactive. Furious and active thinking will not do. Nor the “Awww!” you might direct at a puppy. A puppy is a punch you can roll with.

-7-

Two moms with three babies wandered onto the scene. It being a nice day, the babies were visible, one squirming in the arms of its mother and the others poking their snouts out of the stroller. The mom carrying the baby stopped immediately upon spotting the parrot and approached it (she was the first to do so). As is the wont of moms, she immediately began trying to direct her infant’s attention to the parrot, shoving its face within a foot of the parrot. Mothers are too engaged in scripting the experiences of their babies to experience anything other than the baby themselves. The parrot obliged with a display of orange (I suspect it was stretching, disturbed from its contemplative reverie). The baby, however, seemed entirely uninterested in the parrot. Perhaps the parrot was unclear to its myopic eyes, or perhaps it was simply no more worthy of note than any of other exciting blobs of visual experience all around. At any rate, the mom stopped trying after a few moments, and the five of them rolled on.

The pretty girl in faded red pants was back. This time, she had two waitress friends along, and took a picture of the parrot with her cell phone. The three girls (the other two were rather dumpy looking, but I suppose it was the aprons) chattered for a bit and then stared at the parrot some more. Two more pretty girls walked past, and though the parrot clearly registered, walked past without a perceptible turning of their heads. Something about that worried me. They were of the indistinguishable dressed-in-season species of young college girl that swarm all over American university towns. These could have been either Ithaca College or Cornell; I can’t tell them apart. Two more of the breed walked by, again with the same non-reaction.

A black-guy-white-girl couple walked by. The girl turned to look at the bird as they walked past, while the guy looked at it very briefly. Shortly after, an absorbed black teenager walked by. She looked at it as she walked past, with no change in her expression. The parrot was clearly on Track Two. Track One continued thinking about whatever it was she was thinking about. I suppose ‘parrot’ might have consciously registered with her a few minutes later, but she did not walk by again. Something about black responses to the parrot was sticking in my mind. The owner came back out of the store, carrying a cup of coffee.

-8-

Now, a parrot is not an arresting sort of bird. It does not have the ostentation of the peacock, the imposing presence of the ostrich or the latent lethality of a falcon or hawk. Even in context, at a zoo, a typical white parrot is not remarkable in the company of its more gaudy relatives. Any of these more dramatic creatures would, I suppose, instantly draw a big gawking crowd, perhaps even calls to the police. Undivided attention, active curiosity and action would certainly be merited (“try to feed him some of your bagel”).

The parrot though, had neither the domesticated presence of a dog, nor the demanding presence of a truly unexpected creature. A dog elicits smiles, pats or studied avoidance, while an ostrich would certainly call for a cascade of conversation into activity, culminating in the arrival of a legitimate authority (though, I suppose, most communities would be hard pressed to generate a legitimate response to an ostrich. Cornell though, is an agricultural university, so I suppose eventually one of the many animal experts would arrive on the scene).

So a dog elicits a conventional ripple of cognitive activity as it progresses through the town square, soon displaced by other preoccupations. An ostrich presumably triggers a flurry deliberation, followed by actual activity. So what does the parrot cause, living as it does in the twilight zone between conventionally expected and actionably unexpected? You cannot have the comfort of either action or practiced thoughts, with a parrot in your field of view. Yet, the parrot is not a threat, so you clearly cannot panic or be overwhelmed. The parrot, I think lives in the realm of pure contemplation. The parrot is rare in adult life. For the child, everything is a parrot.

-9-

The return of the owner annoyed me briefly. With his return, the non sequitur instantly became an instance of the signature of the Commons: a spectacle. The owner was clearly used to handling his parrot. He had it hop on his hand again and swung it up and down. The parrot spread its wings and did various interesting things with its feathers which I do not have the vocabulary to describe. With the owner, the context of a small bubble-zoo had arrived. The owner chatted with the girl in faded red pants, who had come out again. Fewer adults stared. The ensemble was now clearly within the realm of the expected. Most people walked on without a glance, while some, emboldened by the new legitimacy of the situation, stopped and watched with interest. The owner tired of active display and set the parrot back on its perch, and turned his attention to the girl.

For a minute, I was sorry, but then a girl, about six years old, walked by with her mother. It was a classic little girl, in orange pants and ice cream cone. She stopped and stared at the bird very carefully. It was not a curious probing look, or the purposeful look that kids sometimes get when they are looking about for a way to play with a new object. This little girl did not look like she would be going home and looking up parrots on the Discovery channel website. She did not look like she was gathering up courage to pet it or imagining it in the role of a chase-able dog or cat. She was just looking at it. Clearly her powers of abstraction had yet to mature to the point where she could see the bubble circus.

A pair of middle-aged women stopped by the parrot. After an initial look at the parrot, they turned and started chatting with the owner. I expect the conversation began, “Does he talk?” or “Doesn’t he fly away?” Shortly after, I saw them wander off a little to the side, where there was a fountain. One woman took a picture of the other, standing next to the fountain, with a disposable camera. Local resident showing visiting Cousin Amy the town, I guessed. All is legitimate on a vacation, including a parrot.

-10-

I don’t think children are necessarily curious when presented with a new experience. The little girl presented a clearer display of authentic engagement of the parrot than all the adults. It was what I have been describing all along as a stare. But stare doesn’t quite cover it. “Stare” does not have the implicit cognitive content of the hippy’s “grin.” Happy, bemused, smiling, frowning, eager curiosity – these are visible manifestations of minds occupied by the workings of deliberative or reactive responses to the parrot. Parrot flits too quickly the face to be noticed, and is replaced by more normal cognitions.

So, here is a question: what is the expression on the face of a person who has authentically engaged a parrot? I must propose, in all seriousness, the ridiculous answer, “it looks like the face of a person who has seen a parrot.”

-11-

The people talking to the owner had left. He now sat reading a book, while the parrot ate seeds of some sort off the table. Three teenage skateboarders wandered to a spot about a dozen yards away. One of them nudged the others and pointed to the parrot. They looked at it in appreciation. It wasn’t quite clear what they were appreciating, but they clearly approved of the parrot. That made me happy.

Now, a large brood of little black children came by, herded by two young women who might have been nannies, I suppose. The black kids all stopped and stared intently at the parrot. The nannies chatted with the owner, who looked on approvingly at the children while he talked. The conversation looked left-brained from fifty feet away. Some tentative petting ensued. As the nannies led the children away, after allowing them a decent amount of time to engage the parrot, one little boy had to be dragged away; he managed to turn his head full circle, Exorcist style, to look at the bird.

Now, five young black men, perhaps eighteen to twenty, walked by. Theirs was clearly a presence to rival that of the parrot-owner duo as a spectacle. Their carefully layered oversized sports clothes and reversed baseball hats demanded attention. I suppose spectacles, be they man-parrots or a group of swaggering young black men, do not supply attention, but demand it. But you cannot really compete with a parrot. The parrot is entirely unaware that it is competing. The black group almost rolled past, but suddenly one of them stopped and turned around to look at the parrot. He looked like he’d suddenly reconsidered the studied indifference that I suppose was his response to competing spectacles. A visible recalibration of response played across his face, and suddenly, he was authentically engaging the parrot in a demanding, direct way. The other stopped and looked to. The first man then pulled out his cell phone, still staring at the parrot, and took a picture. He then briefly interrogated the owner about the parrot, and the group rolled on.

-13-

I wonder now, why are black responses to the parrot more noteworthy than generic white responses? And while I mull that, why have the responses of one other group – pretty young girls – stuck in my mind (besides the fact that I notice them more)?

Now, for an authentic engagement of the parrot, there must be parrot on your mind. Your face must look like the face of a person who has seen a parrot. This is not an ambiguous face, or a face marked visibly by the presence of other thoughts or a subtext. A parrot-mind may wrestle briefly with cell phone mind or preoccupied-with-race-and-oppression mind, but the outcome is all or nothing. There is no useful way a constantly active subtext of race can inform your engagement of a parrot.

I suppose I was looking for evidence that there is room in the black mind for at least a small period of unambiguous engagement with the parrot. If your preoccupation with race and injustice occupies you so completely that even the parrot cannot dislodge it, then it must be a sad life. In a very real sense, your mind is not free, and therefore neither are you, if there is not even temporary room for the parrot. The parrot can only occupy a free mind. To my list of profundities, I will add the following: a free mind is one which the parrot can occupy easily, and stay in as long as it chooses.

Now, the little black children engaged the parrot as completely as the little white girl. So if the little kids are born free and demonstrably remain free until at least age six, as demonstrated by the parrot, why and when do they choose to give away their freedom to a pre-occupation with the subtext of race, which makes those happy six-year-old faces sad? Or is it that the mist of preoccupation descends on them, whether they want it or not?

-14-

I suppose enough actual watching eventually teaches you to observe better. It suddenly occurred to me that the neck-language of parrot-engagement said a lot.

The clearest response is the snap, or double-take. It signals computation. A slight glance on the other hand, no different from the casual scanning of everyday scenery, with no special attention, must mean filtering. I refuse to believe that everybody has a nontrivial scripted response to parrot, so it must mean that the scripted response simply treats the parrot as noise to be filtered. In the casual glance, there is no parrot on the mind.

Now, a more complex response, one signalled by a snap, is one where there is a perceptible pause or break in stride, followed by a turning away. That is a response that is looking for an explanation. The sort of response that might be hooked by a lone parrot, but would ignore the contextually appropriate owned parrot. Most of the time, when we look for an explanation, we can only see an explanation. Sometimes, when the mind hiccups on the path to the explanation, we see the parrot.

Viktor Frankl said, “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Self-improvement gurus like to use that quote to preach, but to me, it seems that this space is primarily interesting because the parrot can live there for a bit, so your mind can be parrot for a bit.

You might hesitate and never visit that space. You might react so fast you leave the space before it registers on your awareness. Or you might dwell there awhile.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter

Comments

  1. The 2nd most famous bird painter in the US was a native Ithacan and professor at Cornell — Louis Agassiz Fuertes. You can visit his wikipedia entry here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Agassiz_Fuertes

    You can see his drawings of parrots here (one resembles your description very closely) or use the link in the title to learn more about representations of birds:
    http://cidc.library.cornell.edu/Fuertes2000/SResults.asp?index=B&RecQuery=parrot&HasThumbs=0

    Happy birding!

  2. Wonder why you tagged this artcile as “Mathematics”?

    There is one thing which left me with an uncomfortable feeling in this article.
    “If your preoccupation with race and injustice occupies you so completely that even the parrot cannot dislodge it, then it must be a sad life. In a very real sense, your mind is not free, and therefore neither are you, if there is not even temporary room for the parrot.”

    In general,
    Preoccupied mind = mind not free

    What about
    Mind Preoccupied by choice (as in involved in solving a puzzle say!!..)?
    I wouldnt call that a sad life :)

  3. Have you ever truly been aware of a decision? See the Buridan’s Ass thought experiment. In practice decision-making (to me at least) feels like busy tree traversal and sequence of cognitions (“what if…,or maybe if I did this…, no that won’t work, what about…”). I don’t think “choice” is a meaningful construct when you talk about real thinking. Your mind basically flits rapidly between thoughts (7 plus or minus 2 at a time) and eventually one thought is reinforced enough that it dominates and you feel you’ve “chosen” or your mind tires of thrashing and you abandon the effort and go eat a cookie or take a walk instead.

  4. The whole essay begs the question – how would you characterize your response to the parrot? :) I think you did make an ironical self-deprecatory remark somewhere in the middle, but I’m too lazy to re-read.

    Excellent piece, by the way.

    As we gain verbal abilities, other experiential modes seem to get smothered by the verbal filters we place over our eyes. At least that’s been my experience, as I look through the relics of my past.

    I remember a calendar full of pictures from my 3-year old days. I was barely verbal then, and I have vivid memories of what I felt as I gazed at those pictures for hours and days. It’s very different from any kind of memory I’ve synthesized since then – infinitely richer – and by definition, I can’t straitjacket those feelings into words and share them with others. I looked at the same calendar the other day, and were it not for my 3-year old self, I would have dismissed them as rather commonplace picture post-card material – oh, that’s a bunch of boats, that’s an aerial photo of the countryside, that’s a snow-covered mountain…

    Remember the scene in The Matrix, with weird symbols falling down the screen in a green deluge? Neo asks Cypher, “Do you always look at it encoded?” Cypher replies, “Have to… you get used to it, though. Your brain does the translating. I don’t even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette.”

    We accomplish the inverse. Our brain does the translating, annotating each object in our field of vision with a word and dismissing it. That’s a tree. Not a tall towering greeny wavy splotches of bright colour…

    I close with a quote from Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. I have no doubt it’s heavily inspired by Hindu/Buddhist canon.

    If they come upon one who still has not seen it and they speak to him of fire, he does not know what they mean. So they, in turn, fall back upon telling him what fire is like. As they do so, they know from their own experience that what they are telling him is not the truth, but only a part of it. They know that this man will never know reality from their words, though all the words in the world are theirs to use. He must look upon the fire, smell of it, warm his hands by it, stare into its heart, or remain forever ignorant. Therefore, ‘fire’ does not matter, ‘earth’ and ‘air’ and ‘water’ do not matter. ‘I’ do not matter. No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words. The more words he remembers, the cleverer do his fellows esteem him. He looks upon the great transformations of the world, but he does not see them as they were seen when man looked upon reality for the first time. Their names come to his lips and he smiles as he tastes them, thinking he knows them in the naming. The thing that has never happened before is still happening. It is still a miracle. The great burning blossom squats, flowing, upon the limb of the world, excreting the ash of the world, and being none of these things I have named and at the same time all of them, and this is reality — the Nameless.

  5. We accomplish the inverse. Our brain does the translating, annotating each object in our field of vision with a word and dismissing it. That’s a tree. Not a tall towering greeny wavy splotches of bright colour…

    You read my intent with the piece bang on target, so that means I managed to transcend Wiio’s law (“Communication usually fails, except by accident.”)

    In fact, one of the original forms of this idea that I had was to take a photograph and overlay it with a huge tag cloud of verbal associations and somehow illustrating the spreading web of verbal associations drowning it (maybe as a movie starting with the raw photo and then drowning in words). Unfortunately my photoshop/animated gif abilities aren’t there yet.

    Pre-verbal memories or just-verbal memories are interesting. I mostly don’t have any, but smells occasionally will bring back very powerful, vivid but semantically foggy memories.

    My response to the parrot. Hmm… I guess it was authentic for about 5 seconds, but then I got sucked into watching the unfolding surrounding drama. I did exercise some self-discipline and at least continued to engage the whole human+parrot scene rather letting my eyes glaze over to allow my mind to wander off on some tangent like “how people are like superstrings” or something. I think I stayed in truly observer mode for almost an hour before the itch to take notes for this piece overcame my greed for more data, and I disengaged. It is really really tough to actually observe something as a way of starting to write about it. Unless there is an obvious story playing out with an abstractable narrative arc, your eyes and mind will want to wander.

  6. Have you used The GIMP? The process to make animated gifs is pretty simple. I’ll be happy to help out if you just send me the individual frames

  7. It is a very useful experience to go over your childhood books once in a while. Not too often, to avoid trampling over your oldest memories with your big adult size 11 second-hand memories about memories. You get a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of your own thought processes over time, the gradual decline of the non-verbal content of your memories… The first Amar Chitra Katha I read has a distinctly different feel than the ones I read
    even two years later.

    If you have kids, by all means do preserve their books. It’s a legacy beyond price.

    Another such repository of memory, though of little introspection value, is music, especially the type which becomes very popular and quickly fades away, never to be heard again. Listening to such (old) music gives a pretty good “feel” for that time period. Again, listen to it too often and it fades.

    The brain has evolved the verbal filter mechanism to deal with information explosion. A feeble analogy would be my first week of driving in India. It was terrible – everything in my field of vision was flagged as a threat. I was immensely stressed out. Gradually, I evolved a filter which embedded itself in my firmware, so I can now drive through familiar routes on autopilot, with my higher consciousness free to wonder about parrots or read audiobooks. At the end of the drive I barely have any conscious memory about the route or obstacles encountered, unless there were any serious exceptions thrown up by firmware. Without such a mechanism, driving – and indeed most of our daily lives – would be impossible.

    The problem, of course, is that overuse of the mechanism leaves us jaded, bereft of the childlike wonder and excitement which characterized the early stages of life. Among my friends, I notice that the ones who are visibly the happiest and have the most “fun” are those who are still capable of being excited, by toys, by places, who still exhibit some of the impulsiveness which is a hallmark of of children, who, in short, have a teeny bit of Peter Pan about them.

    I am sure this topic has been authoritatively beaten to death in one of your high-falutin’ books, but part of the whole meditation idea, I guess, is to suppress the verbal side of the brain, to open the doors to experience things which need not be reducible to words. “Tao” and “Brahman” and “fire” are mere words to those who haven’t experienced them. Personally, I have experienced fire, but not the others :)

  8. Kaps: Yup, I have the gimp, and photoshop as well. It isn’t the s/w, it’s my artistic skill :) Am just starting to get comfortable with freehand stylus drawing, so projects like this will be possible in a few months.

    tubelite:actually, I haven’t seen this idea beaten to death, at least not authoritatively. Cryptic koans and obscure allegories don’t satisfy my definition of ‘authoritative’ :).

    You are conflating two different things though. Sensorimotor skills moving from the neocortex (active decision making) to the cerebellum/brain stem (learned state) is, I think, fundamentally different from pre-verbal memories feeling qualitatively different. I’ll have to think about this, but I think there is something important that is different between the two types of background-receding cognition.

    More later on the childhood stuff. I find Peter Pan a dangerous guide there, given the somewhat messed up life and dead-brother issues of J. M. Barrie.

  9. singininthedeadofnight says:

    Have you ever read Stevens’ ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird?’

    If you hadn’t been one stanza too long, I’d have thought you were..yes…parroting! it. (Sorry) No, I don’t mean parroting, but inspired by similar things, and maybe doing a similar kind of exercise, or making a similar kind of point about imagination and reality.

    Neat story.

    http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/620.html

  10. Ven,

    Am I wrong If I think you seem troubled at how creative your mind can get regarding such things?

    Can you imagine the thoughts that must have gone through “God’s” mind when “it” had to create 2-trillion such creatures? Wonder how long it sat looking at it’s shetches prior to creating?

    Good write.

  11. Shane:

    Are you suggesting that I have a God complex or am a tortured free-associator? I’d like to adopt the pose of tortured genius, but frankly, I don’t think I feel particularly troubled (nice to come across as such though!). I don’t think I could ever get a God complex since I am too cheerful to feel responsible for the fate of the world. If were ever in the position of creating a universe (as a game programmer say) I’d probably try to make it arbitrary and silly just for the hell of it.

    Since I am not religious, the God question doesn’t trouble me, since I think overwhelming diversity is the natural consequence of any blind evolutionary process. But I am sure religious folks consider it blasphemous to think that an omniscient, omnipotent being would take “time” to do anything or that it would need like “sketches” :)

    Venkat

    • raycote says:

      @Venkat
      “I think overwhelming diversity is the natural consequence of any blind evolutionary process.”

      Or as Terence Mckenna characterized it “the universe is a novelty engine”

      As for “natural consequence of any BLIND evolutionary PROCESS”

      BLIND-PROCESS is a true CLICHÉ-PROBE
      a portmanteau like assemblage-technique that beckons our mind to resolve its inherent dialectic contradiction in order to force feed the evolution of a more integrative perspective for visualizing/modelling a thing or process.

      Then within the context of a CLICHÉ-PROBE
      the idea of evolution as a “BLIND PROCESS”
      begs for some sort of DIALECTIC RECONCILIATION between
      BLIND and PROCESS

      An overwhelmingly diverse universe arises out of
      an integrated, self-referential, chain-reactive
      morphogenic-field-array of processes
      all organically entangled in mutually adaptive feedback loops
      of network synchronizing interplay
      the whole universal dance ubiquitously underpinned by
      standing waves of pure replication probability

      standing waves of mutually-reenforcing survival-niche probability interactions
      standing waves of self-replication mediated via symbiotic probability networks
      a universal probability-driven complexity gradient-trap
      an irrepressible self-reenforcing mesh of nested probability feedback loops
      a relentless single-minded probability flowing like water
      into a valley of increasingly complex self-selecting synchronicity
      inextricably swelling the river of collective inter-nodal consciousness

      Maybe Albert Einstein was wrong when he said:
      “GOD DOES NOT PLAY DICE”
      maybe
      GOD IS THE PROBABILITY WELL THAT DRIVES THE DICE!

      God as standing waves of evolutionary dialectic probability

      Chance is a filter that time uses to surface the self-reenforcing inevitability of complexity and by extension consciousness.

      “We are God because only we can create the idea of his/her existence in our holy brains”

      God save ourselves one and all !

      The self-reenforcing, self-selecting, emergent probabilities inherent in complexity and consciousness deliver a teleologic trajectory without the necessity to invent a traditional all seeing grey bearded God.

  12. Ven,

    No, I was suggesting no such complex. You’re a thinking man like me, and I sensed a bit of sadness in your writing regarding your questioning of the experiences around you. And as for the religious aspect, that’s why I put God it quotation marks and said “it”. Whatever created all of this, it must have been some undertaking. At some point “it” must have wondered how parrots would interact with humans. I think you wondering such things too would make our manufacturer proud.

  13. ps. Get the “subscribe to comments” plugin so that we can get notifications via email when you respond. :)

  14. I think I had the comments RSS up, but it seems to have vanished in my last theme upgrade. Will look into the ‘subscribe to comments’ plugin, thanks! Have been debating between something like that, and something like Disqus or Facebook/Friend Connect for a while. Time to make a call.

    As for sadness… yeah, I supposed I have an essentially tragic outlook on life, as I wrote about in a recent piece.

    Not really ‘sadness’ in the usual sense of melancholy, but in an existential sense. I haven’t ever met somebody who I truly respected who didn’t have such a mindset… day to day, it plays out more as humor. As the greeks knew, in tragedy there is comedy and vice versa.

    Venkat

  15. I think deep down we know the clock is ticking. It’s a sadness based on our love of life and our knowledge that it will end. Thus, we seek and wish for everyone to live better, notice more, and reflect more.

    Continue what you do sir.

  16. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  17. Some irrelevant tangents:

    1. The Commons doesn’t seem to have changed much since the early 80s, modulo fashion trends.

    2. Every town like Ithaca/Berkeley has a guy with a tropical pet (the more intellectual types often go with the African Grey). They tends to spend lots of time in public spaces preening (that would be the pet and the human). To avoid competition, I believe there’s either a secret CraigsList section or the equivalent of a Taxi & Limo Commission.

    3. Given the display-frequency, this particular couple may have already been familiar to many passers-by, affecting their non/response.

  18. Can you actually observe “your own thoughts as you react”, or are you observing your observation of…?

  19. The Satan Force says:

    Forgive me for bringing up this old piece, but I am in the middle of an archive binge, and I just had to comment on this particular line from your above article.

    I suppose I was looking for evidence that there is room in the black mind for at least a small period of unambiguous engagement with the parrot. If your preoccupation with race and injustice occupies you so completely that even the parrot cannot dislodge it, then it must be a sad life.

    I dont follow. Are you saying that you believe that black people are constantly focused on issues of injustice and race that they cannot see even the simple beauty of a parrot? In my own experience I find that the “black mind” is quite capable of such unambiguous engagement.

    A recent trip to Fort Lauderdale had me shaking my head at some of my friends, as they seemed to be fascinated by things that I think most people would find most mundane. Cumulonimbus clouds that were shaped liked Ogun’s Anvil, puddles on the ground shaped like Cuba, and some dude who was walking his pet pig.

    OK. That pet pig was the shit. I think if I had given the pig some more coffee, it would have been mine. It wanted me. And I it. It even told me good bye and appeared to squeal my name as they left. We could have………

    Er, what i am trying to say is that there may have been many other reasons (including obviously, your own unconscious bias) than “race and injustice” that could have caused a lack of preoccupation with the parrot.
    And what is so that a preoccupation with race and injustice is cause for a sad life? It could very will signify that one has found cause in life, a cause in life, maybe one that is aesthetic, ethical or even unconditional in its commitment.

  20. Found this post from your refactored link.

    I encountered a large green parrot with its owner in the middle of a kosher grocery store in Skokie, IL. Given that Orthodox Jews are not known for their affinity towards pets in general, but parrots in particular, the sight of this bird in the middle of a store did register quite a few double-takes.