“Each bird sings the song its beak allows.”
This piece of wisdom has long been an important one for me, because I am too much given to repining, that is, feeling (and expressing!) dejection or discontent. Complaining is part of it. But it isn’t simple complaining, actually; it includes a nuance of longing for something, something which one does not have, and hence — dejection or discontent.
Repining is the opposite and enemy of contentment.
Instead of enough, there is only what’s missing. Instead of satisfaction, envy. This sad dynamic plays out in a realm that’s very important to me, the realm of blogging. I work hard on my two blogs. I take them seriously. I try to be informative, or entertaining, or amusing, or whatever takes my fancy at the time. I try to generate conversation, which is in the end what I (and many others) blog FOR. To expand my own narrow limited experience, to stretch my own limited imagination and boundaries.
And it works. I have a global acquaintance, through blogging, that puts me in contact, even friendship, with men and women here in the U.S., but also in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, England, France, Germany, Canada, all over! These are my extraordinary companions in the blogging world.
This one has great camera skills and instant rapport with strangers, and she produces marvelous posts of photo journalism (Nylon Daze). That one, actually two, go adventuring all over by kayak, and their blogposts give me a waters-eye view I would in a million years never see on my own. (Wind against Current) The other one may or may not be able to sing like a bird (it doesn’t come up on her blog) but she is on intimate terms with all feathered creatures, and her posts generously introduce them to all of us. (Time and Tide)
Then there is the blogger whose world most often runs on metalled tracks (Thoughts from Finchley) and the naturalist who looks UP and DOWN and all around on her fearless explorations in the woods (Random Acts of Writing). There is an around-the-world adventuress of graceful prose, extraordinary photos, and a bent for justice (The Urge to Wander); and an elegant lady who recounts her doings (and misdoings) with wit and pointed humor (Being Mrs. Carmichael); and a photographer/philosopher who leaves many gaps for us to fill in on our own (Empire of Lights).
I’m leaving out the poets, and the bon vivants and so many! I wish I could cite each and every one. My blogroll testifies to many of these amazing people. Check them out! But when the moon is in a dark place, perhaps, and the wind blows out of the north — I also repine, because I can’t do all these things. And I wish I could. Actually, it’s worse than that. It isn’t just that I want to do everything. There’s some kind of scold or taskmaster in me who says I should be able to do everything. And I, poor chump, believe that inner Simon Legree.
To return to some sort of balance and perspective is always an exercise in humility. I repeat to myself the wise saying of Mère Tarsisius: Be content with the shape of your own beak. Don’t waste time repining. Sing the song that your mouth allows. Do what you can do. Each of these bloggers whom I so admire is doing what they can do. Each one is singing the song that his or her beak allows.
A browse through WordPress and other blogging platforms reveals are so many beaks, so many songs. In a world of hatred, furor, violence, and disrespect — perhaps we are creating a contrast, a sign of harmony, a true sign of hope. Put all our songs together, and what resounds is a mighty chorale of human aspiration, dreams, and desires. A mighty song, a beautiful song — and none of us has to sing it alone.
Who was Mère Tarsisius? The Mother Superior of the order of St. Andrew, one of whose houses is in Taizé, in Burgundy, where the sisters work together with brothers of the Ecumenical Community of Taizè in a mission of reconciliation. She was a living legend in the days when the Hub and I went frequently to Taizè, but I never got to meet her in person. Various people would relate her teachings, and tell stories about her, and that sufficed. She was Belgian, and doubtless she taught: Chaque oiseau chante le chanson que permet son bec. Wisdom comes to us in many ways.
A beautiful reflection on hope in our human condition. Thank you xo
Thank you, Therese, for always being there. And for understanding.
Your post made me think of this from “The New Dress” by Virginia Woolf which is to be included in a production at the Rogue this spring of “The Lady in the Looking Glass” – itself a Cindy Meier-written production of seven of VW’s short stories.
Anyway, the quote:
“And also with Hubert sometimes she had quite unexpectedly-carving the mutton for Sunday lunch, for no reason, opening a letter, coming into a room-divine moments, when she said to herself (for she would never say this to anybody else), “This is it. This has happened. This is it!” And the other way about it was equally surprising-that is, when everything was arranged-music, weather, holidays, every reason for happiness was there-then nothing happened at all. One wasn’t happy. It was flat, just flat, that was all.”
The connection with repining is not obvious – maybe it’s not there at all. But your post made me think of how sometimes it is all good – despite the obvious short comings. And other times it is flat – no matter how perfect the surroundings.
Once quite a while ago, this phenomenon was presented to me as joy, distinct from happiness. In that explanation, you could search for happiness by buying a new dress, eating a good dinner, winning a prize, etc etc. But joy was something separate and special — an overwhelming flooding of delight, awe, and gratitude perhaps? — that simply came (as Woolf has it in your passage) as a divine moment, a moment out of earthly time, in another dimension. What do you think?
(As for the relationship with repining, you can repine for earthly things that come, and go! But the joy that comes as it pleases — no use repining at all.)
This is a lovely post. Thanks for sharing some of the blogs you follow, they sound interesting and hopefully I’ll be able to check them out soon. You are right. All of us have different beaks and sing different songs – we’ve all got different backgrounds and perspectives, and have our own hobbies and passions. And that is what makes us all interesting and why we can learn so many things here in the blog world 🙂
Yours is one of the blogs (Mabel Kwong) I learn a great deal from, Mabel, your perspective as an Asian-Australian, or an Asian in Australia, whichever. But someone who lives in a dual perspective.
Thank you, that is a very nice thing to say. I am glad you enjoy my blog 🙂 Have a good week ahead.
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What a splendid post, thank you!
Thank you, Gilly. You live a life of more than one perspective, and following your blog (Lucid Gypsy) is always enriching.
Judy – I believe that you repine more from a sense of seeing and feeling all that needs “fixing” in this world and your blogger friends all remind you of all that’s yet to get done. And your anti-complacency antennae get quivering and wondering “how could i have missed that one” – that is perhaps as it should be. For we do need multiple look-out people as vast and complex as the world has become!!! Let those who are satisfied with things as they are, enjoy them and those who envision something better, point the way. Perhaps they take turns too, sometimes dreaming plaintively for what can be, sometimes pining for what might have been, and sometimes enjoying things as they are!!!
And i did mean to let you know i enjoyed so much your post of last week on the horrible Parisian tragedy. But i had so many conflicting thoughts about that whole incident and the larger issues involved -right of free speech, appropriateness of shouting ‘fire’ in crowded theaters, the original sin in all of this (ours and/or theirs – the “how did my oil get in your sands problem”), and how to exercise positive-discrimination to not stereotype but distinguish between good ordinary hardworking people of any race religion ethnicity and the crazy things some in their group take to doing supposedly for the group, and on and on that my head began to hurt. So many good reactions in the media for once (atleast the ones I watched – foxnews must have been different) – jonstewart had his little “condemnologists” segment which was spot-on, pbs/wapo/nyt refrained from republishing THE cartoons using good sense even while defending free speech, even david brooks backtracked on his stand of last week that america needed less political correctness (which i actually agree with in general but not today), and came out to speak for some modicum of common sense, and jeffrey sachs had a wonderful article about that “original sin” concept – our unending lust for war and the spillover effect….so i ended the week feeling kind of weak but that all hope’s not lost yet!
No wonder you were weak with searching out and reading and absorbing so many viewpoints! But if anyone can do that and keep her head, you can, Mercy. I always get so much out of your comments. It just makes me a little sad that in “real life” we are so far apart. As for hope — this post and the comments it’s drawing certainly helps to strengthen mine!
Another thing i wanted to mention about the metaphor of the birds (which you won’t believe i have only just begun noticing over the last 15 years or so, and in recognition of which my son bought me a beautiful bird-feeder only this past year for my birthday!!! – not sure how the beautiful birds of my native india completely escaped my notice and now i repine for that loss of senses on my part! 😦 ) : but, yes I was about to say that I had also begun noticing something similar about the chirrups and tweets and twitterrings of all the birds – on a walk around their dinner time say 4 o’clock or so in the evening there is such intense chatter if you walk by trees where they nest; in the early hours of the day or during mid-day there are the differently paced duets and the whistling back and forth, and they all reminded me of something similar they share with us humans – Nature’s symphony that depends upon each one doing their own thing – but I could not have put it all together as beautifully in perspective as you did…
Our birds here in New England will probably not be singing again until sometime in May! Not at the rate our weather is going — 😦
J, I would not have thought this of you had you not written this post. I watch (from here mainly, now that we see each other so seldom) as you fill yourself up with people and places and ideas and then spill them out here in songs of praise or explanation to the rest of us. Despite your claims of repining (let me insert here that longing for that which you don’t have can be a powerful motivator), I see a woman who gives in order to get, who shares in order to be satisfied, who sings in words beautifully crafted. Thank you for you 🙂
And thank you, Pauline, for such a lift to my spirits. Thanks also for the reminder that that kind of ineffable longing can be a motivator and a blessing, actually! I readily forget that.
Your extraordinary blog, Writing down the Words, is consistently a spirit lifter.
A lovely post and thanks for links to some of your favourite blogs. I have expanded my blog network today 🙂
Me too! I don’t know how you found mine, but I am delighted you did. And I look forward to adding your poetic words and photos to my store of favorite blogs.
I found you by just browsing wordpress. I’m relatively new to blogging and actively trying to increase my network. I’m loving the diversity of blogs.
You’ve entered an exciting world, Ruth!
In my humble English:
Isn’t it that we all – more or less – have “ein Mitteilungsbedürfnis” the need to connect, to talk/communicate with like-minded persons?
I have a deep need when my heart sores, when my mind is clouded “jemandem mein Herz auszuschütten” – to poor out/unburden it.
If there is nobody here at these moments I listen to music, to Mozart, Beethoven, Bach Cantatas, Country ballades and even to banal songs (as long as they’re well composed and written 🙂
Music really helps me to blow off my dark cloud and feeds my soul.
And – and – the BIRDS! Nothing more uplifting than our Black bird’s songs, the Nightingale from time to time, the Kuckuck who announce the Spring and sometimes I can even hear a Lark “jubilieren hoch in den Lüften”! It gives me some strengths and a bit of energy back.
I know what you mean, can read between the lines.
However – when the “worst comes to the worst” I always remember what my mother has told me when I was little: “Immer, wenn Du denkst es geht nicht mehr, kommt von irgendwo ein Lichtlein her”! (Always when you think that you cannot go any longer, that you cannot take more, there will be a little light coming from somewhere) And this is what I also still tell friends when they are in “darkness” or having life-difficulties or….
Which means – we have to keep up Hope in our own interest, for our own satisfaction, and for a few moments of Happiness – “ein paar Glücksmomente”!
“Lange Rede – kurzer Sinn” – Love this post, dear Judith!
A BRAVO to whoever invented blogging!
Warmest greetings from a “greyish-clouded” (in the truest sense of word -ha-ha!) Périgord,
P.S. Honestly – until now/today – have not really heard the expression, the word “repining” so far. Like it!
Much better than ‘complaining’ – ‘moaning’ – ‘lamenting’
Of course I had to find out “tout de suite” the definition and then, suddenly, remembered that I’ve read some years ago Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall”
Oh, Karin, what a delightful mini-essay! Once again you show that German always has just the right word that English lacks: Mitteilungsbedürfnis. Yes, exactly — we need people who “speak the same language”, which has nothing to do with English or French or German or Japanese. It’s the language of the heart, Mamaloschen in Yiddish, the language a mother speaks to her child, the “mother tongue.”
So now I know a little better why your extraordinary blog is well populated with music, as well as birds and flowers and other natural delights. Interesting how the birds that so inspire you, we do not have here. No blackbirds (that sing, we have crows), no nightingales, no cuckoos. Larks? Deeper in the country than I live. Birdsong has a different meaning for you than for me! It’s part of the music you so love.
I concur heartily with you, Bravo for the blog-inventor!
Another thing i wanted to mention about the metaphor of the birds (which you won’t believe i have only just begun noticing over the last 15 years or so, and in recognition of which my son bought me a beautiful bird-feeder only this past year for my birthday!!! – not sure how the beautiful birds of my native india completely escaped my notice and now i repine for that loss of senses on my part! 😦 ) : but, yes I was about to say that I had also begun noticing something similar about the chirrups and tweets and twitterrings of all the birds – on a walk around their dinner time say 4 o’clock or so in the evening there is such intense chatter if you walk by trees where they nest; in the early hours of the day or during mid-day there are the differently paced duets and the whistling back and forth, and they all reminded me of something similar they share with us humans – Nature’s symphony that depends upon each one doing their own thing –
Dear Judith, I simply want to repeat Pauline’s wonderful words and thank you so much for the thoughtful constructs you put before us with so much heartfelt compassion and generosity. The sound and feeling your words and thoughts invoke in me is one of caring, I would never have thought “repining” and no matter how smooth our edges appear we all have our corners of longing. Thank you for being a part of my life!
I regard it as a privilege, Patti.
Some day we will meet in the flesh, I am certain it will happen! But meanwhile, this is great.
A perfect post with nods to other bloggers who no doubt feel the same way at times. I know I do. It reminds me of an aha! moment a few years ago, when I was toiling in the garden. Weeding, digging, planting – when the thought occurred to me: “I would rather be writing.” And then a bigger thought: “I barely have time to write, how do I have time to garden?” and then: “There is not much time left.” That was when I started to prioritize the things I MUST do, what I am most called to do above all else; I will write before I garden, cook, make art, learn flower names, read…the list goes on and on. The most important things now, more often than not, float to the top, call out the loudest. Perhaps like the one birdsong we hear in a forest of many.
What a lovely tale of clarity and applied insight.
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I found out that the things we do that come so easily are our talents. We all have something wonderful and unique and this amazing blog-O-sphere allows us to see, read, interact, listen and behold them.
Thanks for sharing your words and inviting us to share ours!
I’m happy for your visit and your comment, Marge Katherine!
Your posts seem to come from a place so deep and wise that I have always just assumed that your life has been one filled to the brim with the type of adventure that eventually leads to this depth of understanding. If that is not the case then your capacity to draw on all the songs being sung around you is to be applauded and a life skill that many of us could learn from. You are my Grand Dame of Blogging and have always inspired me with your tunes!
I do have one secret, Gill —
It’s being 80 years old! It really is true, you hang around long enough, you learn. That’s a promise —
I’m gonna give it my best shot!
Yay for you!
An excellent post Judith – It’s great that we all make a ‘Dawn Chorus’ of many voices together. And through those voices may we hope to make the world a better, more tolerant, place 🙂
Mère Tarsisius’ wisdom that a bird must ‘Sing the song it’s beak allows’ is a wonderful metaphor for each doing what our capabilities allow. We learn something new, or relearn something that is deep in our subconcious knowledge, every day. I was watching a programme on BBC last night about pets and how their wild behaviours are reflected in the way they play. Whilst much of the programme dealt with Cats and Dogs, Hamsters and Budgies were also included. The Budgie featured in the show had a huge repertoire of spoken phrases learnt from his owner. Budgies being able to speak was once seen as mimicry and only that but modern study has revealed that within the flock each family of budgies stays close together and each bird within a family has an assigned call that will summon it to rejoin the family – effectively, each has a name! Wild Budgies have many calls to learn, so the ability to learn ‘calls’ in the form of human words isn’t so strange is it? – especially when the family is human.
Perhaps Mère Tarsisius could add something like ‘Yet each bird may spread its wings and choose to become more’. For isn’t that what we are doing every time we decide to sit at the keyboard and make the sounds of a demented Woodpecker as we create that next post? 🙂
Well! Here’s this really interesting assessment of Wild Budgies and their abilities, and deep wisdom about the human and wild kingdom and their affinities —
And then comes the demented Woodpecker!
I fell out. I just fell out.
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I have visions of you falling about 😉 Let em give you something to smile about; you don’t want to know how many times I have stood beside the cage explaining to Paul that he needs to go inside now because I want to go to bed! It can take a while before he will aquiese and climb down the cage and duck inside allowing me to close the door! He clearly knows what is going on but likes to stamp his authority on proceedings 😉
He is named after a particularly hard-headed and authoritarian saint, I notice —
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“Put all our songs together, and what resounds is a mighty chorale of human aspiration, dreams, and desires. A mighty song, a beautiful song — and none of us has to sing it alone.” That’s beautiful Judith. Truly, I am grateful to have connected with you.
The feeling is most definitely mutual, Madhu.