Sunday, April 4, 2010
About funny birds and divinity
I used to watch tons of TV. It was mostly ritual or habitual behavior. Didn't matter much what was on - just a visual chewing gum. Not unlike old people sitting on a bench just watching people go by - something to do, without doing anything.
Lately (and especially since I now live in The Hell That Is Basic Cable) I don't watch so much TV. The set's most valued function is to lull me to sleep at night and murmur softly so I can't hear the silence that reminds me that I am alone. (This system works well until the wee hours when, inevitably, someone or other suddenly pops on shouting about Jesus. More about Jesus later. Bet you can't wait for that.)
But there's one program running right now that has sucked me in - Life on the Discovery Channel. I've watched my share of "nature shows" in the past - dating all the way back to Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins. (I loved that show. It ran on Sunday nights and I loved it mostly because when it appeared it meant thirty minutes until The Wonderful World of Disney, which aired "in living color" in some other people's homes. I also loved it because Marlin would mostly narrate and he always had a sidekick, a younger, strapping fellow, who did all the work. Marlin would say "Jim will now rush in and subdue the rabid hyena while I observe." Jim, to his credit, never once rolled his eyes. On camera.)
Life is a nature show, loaded with anteaters and meerkats (see photo above, which looks exactly like a bunch of guys in a bar saying "I thought this was Ladies' Night?") and snails and penguins and slimy things that live in the ocean, just like nature shows should do. The photography amazes minute upon minute and I watch with my mouth hanging open and sitting so still the snails seem like fidgety meth heads. There's a lot of talk about eggs and sperm and you get to see lots of different weird animals have sex. Which is great for us guys because no matter how lousy you are in bed, after you watch this show you can also say "Well, a least I can last longer than a prairie chicken. Usually."
Tonight they showed a bunch of different funny male birds and all their extreme exertions to demonstrate to the female birds that they are worthy of mating. They do tricks and display various body parts and even build little houses - which may seem primitive but is so much more civilized than online dating. These bird boys of all kinds were just knocking themselves out to lure that female close enough for an intense three seconds of lovemaking. The photographers even caught them after with little cigarettes in their beaks saying "Was it good for you?"
I can't watch animals doing animal things without thinking about the human animal, and how all this doesn't just reflect us, it is us. It is the rare human being who doesn't engage in some kind of fundamental, unspoken, attract-a-mate behavior several times every day. Think about it - women slave away at the gym and in front of the mirror in search of irresistible curves and inviting lips and lustrous hair, and men buy Porsches. But seriously - every time a guy unconsciously sucks in his gut when an attractive woman comes near, isn't he exactly like the funny bird flopping his great huge chestal area blobs all over the place like a scene from Mardi Gras? Just trying to look better to catch her eye. ( She didn't look, maybe I need those calf implants.) And aren't the Rolexes and $500 haircuts and Malo Blahniks just saying the same thing as wedging an especially shiny piece of litter into my mud nest to "make it pop"?
And what that leads me to is thinking about Jesus. (See, wait around long enough, you get the payoff.) Today is Easter so the subject of divinity comes up, and no, I don't mean that really good desert. Easter is all about defeating death and having an immortal soul that lives in eternity. (If you tithe, as I recall.) And this gets me wondering about man. Is there any more of a spark of divinity in that guy in the Porsche than in the meerkats? And if you think meerkats are cute enough to have a soul, then what about a starfish or a trilobite or a tick? Seems to me either we all have souls of equal value and lives of equal meaning, or none of us have any of either. (I could just go Buddhist right now if Tiger Woods hadn't given it a bad name lately.) The only difference between me and a penguin is my ability to think about something more than "eat a fish, eat a fish, eat a fish, procreate, eat a fish, eat a fish," and that thinking doesn't make an eternal soul.
In summation, I think if you're planning on going to Heaven you'd better be prepared to be in line with clams and wallabies and condors and even guys in Porsches.