Birds On the Verge of Transcendence

Canceled comedian Louis C.K. said it best:

Everything is amazing and nobody’s happy.

Louis C.K.

I say he said it best because he phrased it in a way which could pierce through the thick cloud of distraction we live in and catch our (allegedly) diminished, modern attention. But by no means is it a new or novel thought. In fact, essentially this same thought has driven philosophers to madness and/or illumination for centuries. Some version of it is the foundational starting point of every religion, ever.

There is no disputing that everything is amazing. If you attempt to dispute this for some reason, I’ll direct you from wherever you are to the outdoors, and then, to look up at the sky. Whatever it is you might see up there, wherever you are, it’s pretty amazing. Or close your eyes. Feel your body shiver and pulse and tingle. I don’t know about for other creatures, but just to experience the world with a human mind is incomprehensibly amazing.

And what’s even more amazing is that things just keep getting better for us. The list is long. Extreme poverty is declining across the globe. Hunger is diminishing. Life expectancy is rising. Child mortality is declining, as is death in childbirth. Literacy is increasing. Technology is becoming more powerful, less expensive, and more distributed, all at the same time. The use of renewable energy is skyrocketing, now powering more than 10% of global energy use. Even something that feels as overwhelming impossible as global energy is something humans are making astonishing progress on.

Sometimes from our small corners of the world, we feel like we are falling apart and so assume everyone and everything else is too. But for billions of people all over the planet, everything just keeps getting more amazing.

But that’s just data; those are just facts. Facts and data don’t have to have anything to do with happy.

Or maybe they do.

At the simplest level, we achieve all of this thanks to how kind and helpful people are generally. Everywhere you look there are people helping other people. There are people building organizations and collecting more people to help more people. All of those people are probably pretty happy. Both the helpful and those who are receiving their help.

But more so, with each small improvement we manage to make in our lives, we are collectively pulling each other up to scale the the great pyramid of happiness together; Maslow’s Pyramid. The “Heirarchy of Needs.” With each sick child we heal, with every hungry mouth filled, with every mother who doesn’t die in childbirth, we are collectively climbing Maslow’s pyramid together, pulling each other up off of the base level of fundamental physiological need, protecting each other and increasing the safety and security of everyone, sharing the experience of it together to satisfy the higher level needs for love, belonging, and self esteem…. soon we’ll all be at the top, clinging to the BenBen Stone, looking up through the clear sky of Maslow’s “Self-Actualization”. Towards the beyond. Towards the heavens. Straight towards… Maslow’s “Transcendence”.

That would be lovely, of course, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is something a bit less certain and perhaps more worrisome.

It’s occurring to me that as we claw our way skyward with one hand, pulling others up from behind with our other, that no one is looking down. That no one is looking behind us. That no one is noticing the birds.

I think of all of the greats of New Jersey. Kathy Clark protecting land for her eagles and Igloos for her falcons. Ben Wurst raising platforms for the Osprey. And Todd Pover building his parks for Plovers. It is all such a wonderful outcome after so many years of struggle. Yet as I watch these birds with their slowly, more easily satisfied physiological needs, I realize that they are investing their time in potentially higher pursuits.

Plover Park is certainly becoming a world all unto itself. A rich world full of complex relationships which have absolutely nothing to do with us. A world where we are not even welcome, and maybe even looked down upon.

As I celebrate the Spring Equinox tonight and dream to see all of the wild places filled with life again, I also worry a little. Thanks to all of the kind, helpful people who’ve cared for them for so long, maybe these birds are getting a little too comfortable. Maybe they are getting a little too smart.

I fear we are approaching an age where we might have some birds on the cusp of…. Transcendence.

And that would be amazing. I’m just not sure if it will actually make us happy.

We’ll just have to see what happens.

Happy Spring.


  1. So glad you are posting again. I was just wondering whether we will be following the plovers again this spring. Welcome back!


  2. Watching tv..even..we learn birds are smarter than we are..they do family first..and adapt..of course it might take a few ‘ve.nerations…Thanks Jim for good thoughts. And for saying data matters. John


  3. It is very nice to hear some “Happy news.” I usually only hear unhappy news from major news sources. I guess that is what people are interested in and need to know about some of it.


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