Birds of a Feather
Looking out of a window the other day, as my wife drove in the crazily packed American traffic, I saw a lot of birds flocking.
The way they avoid each other, flocking so closely - amazing, isn't it? They all manage to turn at the same time, landing in a single synchronous unit. It's as if they communicate their intentions in some invisible, inaudible fashion.
John weaves his way expertly through the crowds. Despite walking contrary to the flow, he barely has to temper his stride at all.
As the lights turned green, we swung left around the corner, two adjacent lines of traffic travelling in the same direction, with scant inches between them and us.
Waves of motion and stillness passed through the flock of birds, as though it were a single amoebalike entity. They respond too quickly, I thought, for it even to be communication amongst them.
It surprises John how easy it is to walk through a crowded street, all the elements moving, and yet so little conflict.
My wife curses some inconsistent driver ahead of her, as he slows for apparently no reason.
The birds all swoop down to land neatly on a grassy slope. It looks effortless, their landing in a neat array. No wings conflict, none are disturbed by the air-motions caused by their adjacent fellows. It's all instinct, though, isn't it? Birds aren't that smart.
John sidesteps left, just as the person he tries to avoid steps right. He steps right as they step left. They both stop. John smiles wryly at the stranger, and gestures that he intends to pass on the left. They pass, and both return to their stride.
Birds aren't that smart.
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