Tag Archives: Journey

The Parable Of The Migrating Birds

Why It’s Ok To Lose Your Way

Once there was a group of birds. They were the kind of birds that migrated quite a long distance every year. They crossed oceans, rivers, mountains, and large flat areas that took several days to cross. They would instinctively leave their homes once the cold air of the winter signaled it was time for their departure. Once they arrived in the warmer areas, the boys and girls would hook up and make baby birds. Of course birds don’t pop right out fully formed, like people do.

They are not quite done when they come out, they need a little bit more work. So they finish cooking in the next inside their protective shell. When they are ready to face the world, they break out of their shells, and start to make noises. Usually these noises mean, “Give me food!” but sometimes they just like to make noise. It’s fun to learn to do things and watch how the world reacts to you.

Then, if all goes well, when everybody can fly on their own, and not get lost, they all pack up their stuff and head back home when the weather starts to warm up.

Now here is the curious part. While they’ve been studying the migration patterns of birds for quite some time, they aren’t exactly sure how they remember how to go back and forth. Some argue that because many birds make the same trip several times in their lifetime, they follow others the first time, and then remember if from there. But that would mean that bird have some kind of long term memory. While possible, some argue that that is unlikely. Another problem with that theory is that after the new birds are hatched and learn to fly, they can find their way back “home.”

It’s important to remember that “home” is sometimes several thousand miles away, and over various different terrains. How in the world do the baby birds know where to go? The most accepted theory is that they follow all the grownups.

But if you are like me, I can ride along shotgun with somebody several times and not remember how to get there. The idea that birds that get it right the first time on their own is mind-boggling.

But however it works out, this story is about one small bird who had some troubles his first couple of trips. His first trip was no problem. He just stuck with his group, did what he was told, and got back to his home (for the first time) safely. The next year came, and it was time to return and mate and nest.

That’s when the problem started. He was the kind of bird that was easily sidetracked. He couldn’t really focus on where he was supposed to end up. He kept noticing all the scenery around him. Several times he would be watching the hills rolling below him, only to look up and find that he was all alone. This panicked him, of course, and he flew as fast he could until he could see his group. Usually he found them within a couple of days, but sometimes he flew for several days without seeing anybody. This was terribly distressing for him. He would always chastise himself for being so stupid, and not paying attention.

When he finally caught up with the group, he felt happy again, and forget his mistakes. But then a couple days later, the same thing would happen. He’d be lazily watching the scenery pass by, and lose his way again. And the would yell and curse himself for being stupid, fly around in all directions out of fear for a few days until he caught up with group again.

Finally they arrived at their winter home. He, like all the other male birds, found a suitable female and knocked her up. When the eggs came, he started feeling a deep, gnawing fear in the pit of his belly. As they day of the great hatching came closer, the fear became bigger and bigger. One of the older birds noticed this and came over to speak with him.

“What seems to be troubling you?”
“I don’t know. This just doesn’t seem fun any more.”
“What doesn’t?”
“This whole thing,” he said motioning to all the expectant mothers sitting on their eggs.
“I mean,” he continued, “what if I get lost again, and people are following me? We could all die.”
The old bird paused.
“I suppose you could,” he finally said.
The young bird looked at him, his fear growing.
“Do you remember how you got here?” The old bird asked.
“Well, I remember when I got lost, and all the places I tried to find the group, and ..”
“No.” The old bird cut him off.
“How did you get here? Not how did you get lost. How did you get here? What do you remember?”
The young bird stopped, thinking. Suddenly his mind flashed with all the landmarks when he was overcome with joy at being reunited with the flock. He suddenly understood.
“All those points. Of course. Just go from one of those points to the next. It seems so easy now.”
“That’s the secret,” the old bird said, smiling (insomuch as birds can smile).
“You have a memory filled with many different events. Some are bad, some are good. Simply focus on the good memories, and you will always remember your way.”
“Will he lose his way?” the young bird asked, motioning towards his young sons and daughters, still wrapped in their protective shells.
“We all lose our way.” The old bird said.
“That is the only way we can learn.”

With that he flew off, and the young bird never felt fear again.

The Elephant’s Path

Once upon a time there was an elephant. He was an adolescent elephant, but he had been separated from his pack. He was out playing with several friends of his, and had gotten lost. The whole elephant group was on their way on their yearly migration pattern. This young elephant was at the age where parents usually let the elephant find it’s own way; because they need to remember how stay on course of their yearly migration path. Most people know that elephants have very good memories, but one thing that many people don’t realize about elephants is that they need to practice this memory from a very young age.

As such, when elephants go wandering off like this young elephant did with his friends, they were concerned, but not overly so. They knew that the elephant would initially find its way. Of course different parents had different time when they let the elephants go roaming off by themselves. After all, they really couldn’t get very far. It was hard to find a large group of elephants slowly moving east. It might take a young adventurous elephant a few days, but they usually found there way fairly easily.

Which of course, was why the parents of this particular elephant weren’t very worried, because he had shown fairly good memory so far. They had made the trip three times already. The first two times the young elephant had stayed very close to his parents, and had wailed considerably when they tried to run up ahead to see if he could find his way. On the third trip, he seemed to be able to stay fairly clear of his parents. Whenever they tried to round him up when they were getting ready to leave with the rest of he group, although he had eventually caught up with them, he seemed to have an “I can do it by myself attitude.”

You know how it is, when you feel a little bit resentful when people are telling you that you should do a certain thing, even though you know that you should probably be doing it anyways, but you kind of resent being told what to do? That is exactly how this elephant felt on that trip.

But now it had been three days since he had seen any other elephants. He had found a couple of small streams to drink from, and finding food wasn’t a problem, because after all, he was an elephant. But he was starting to get lonely. He missed the company of his friends, and that feeling you get when you see something familiar. He was right at the halfway point between enjoying being on his own, and feeling that familiar pull of doing what you are used to all the time. Like you feel like if you go one way, you will go back to how things always were, but if you go the other way, there is no telling how much fun and excitement you could have. The only problem is by going the second way, you might encounter danger that you didn’t know existed before, and you don’t know if you can handle it.

It’s like you have to choose between normal, safe, medium amount of fun, to an opportunity of fantastic excitement and adventure, coupled with a chance of horrible slow impending doom. Even though you are afraid of the doom, you can’t help but to feel compelled to follow this new path. To keep going forward until finally figure out exactly what you are looking for. Like following the familiar path is following the path of other people, and following this new path is following your true heart, wherever it may lead.

The young elephant kept trudging along, all of these thoughts swirling around in his quickly developing adolescent elephant brain. He came up to a rise, and surveyed where he had been, and where he could go. Up ahead, about five miles, to the east, he saw a large, slowly moving cloud of dust. At first he was happy to see it, because he knew it contained his family, his friends, and the rest of the group. To the west, he saw a vast plain filled with unknown trees and mountains and animals he may have never seen before. He knew that up ahead, in six weeks, time, both paths would converge, and all off the elephant groups would meet together. He looked one last time at the far away and slowly moving cloud of dust and certain safety, and then to the west, to the unknown. And he made his decision.

Making Connections can lead to Engaging Ideas

So I was sitting in the airport, waiting for my friend to come through the gate. The airport I was wasn’t an international one, just one that has domestic flights to different parts of country. My friend, however was coming from a connecting flight from an airport that was a major international hub. Because the island I live on doesn’t have an international airport, you can’t fly here directly from outside the country. You have to make a connection.

Some people don’t like to make connections. I remember I had a connection once in Seoul, where I had to wait for about ten hours. I don’t know if you’ve stayed ten hours in an airport where you were stuck in the international section, but it’s pretty boring. Because you are only passing through, and not staying, you can’t really go outside, because you’d have to go through customs, and figure out what to do with your bags, and it is generally a big hassle. Of course if you have to stay in such a boring section of an airport with uncomfortable seats, and only one channel on TV, then you can figure out a way to go outside your comfort zone and explore what is outside. There can be some pretty cool stuff out there sometimes.

Other people will go to great lengths to avoid making a connection. I don’t know if they think that making a connection is an inconvenience, or something bad will happen, like they might lose something. Sometimes people can’t help, despite how hard they try but to make a connection. Personally, I think connections can e really good. They can really make a trip more enjoyable. It adds to the distance between where you are coming from, and where you are going. Some people would just like to disappear at point A, and then reappear at point B. For them, traveling is a nuisance to be avoided at all costs. I suppose if you were going to an important business meeting where people would be discussing life and death situations of profits and mergers and other issues, you might want to stay focused, and teleport yourself there. But when you are traveling for fun, I think connections are fantastic.
The most elaborate sequence of connections I made was for a seminar I went to on an island in Belize. First I flew from LAX to Miami. Then I took another big plane from Miami to the Capital of Belize. Then I took a small chartered plane from the capital of Belize to the island. Then, because the part of the island I was going to wasn’t connected by enough land to build a road, I had to wait for a taxi boat to take me to my final destination. Then I had to walk through sand to get to my bungalow. It really made feel like I was in a completely different world. Los Angeles seemed like a whole other side of the galaxy, a million light years in the past.

Some connections can be long, some can be short, others can be really interesting and unexpected. Somebody I was talking to in an airport bar told me that connections aren’t really a hindrance, they’re really are a conspired sequence of people and events that are helping you to get where you are going. And it’s pretty cool knowing that wherever you want to go, you’ll likely run across a secret group of people to pop out of nowhere and help you along the way.
Who knows, you may even be one of these secret people that can pop out of nowhere to help somebody else.

When my friend finally showed up, she was really glad to be here. I asked her if she had any jet lag, and all she said was that although she had remembered thinking before she left that she might have jet let when she got here, she didn’t think her jet leg was nearly as bad as she had predicted before left. Which just goes to show, that when you get something new, like this, you can’t help but wonder why you didn’t discover this before, simply because you were able to make the connection.