I looked out the window this morning and I thought I saw a speck on the window pane. Upon closer look, I realized that the speck was a hummingbird perched high on a wire spanning two telephone poles.
I became the bird’s dedicated audience for about three minutes. I watched closely as the tiny bee-like creature surveyed the surroundings from its high vantage point.
What was the bird thinking? And can I use the word “thinking” to describe the activities in this bird’s mind? For that matter, does the bird have a mind? It certainly has a brain. And that brain has a special feature: its hippocampus is five times larger than that of song birds, seabirds, and woodpeckers. According to this article, “The birds can remember where every flower in their territory is and how long it takes to refill with nectar after they have fed.”
Thinking is a by-product of an animal body, which is a member of a species with specific needs, skills, and adaptations to a particular environment.
Fear (and Love) of Heights
If I were perched on a wire as high as the hummingbird, I would be terrified: “Get me down from here!” On the other hand, a bird feels perfectly at home at such high altitudes.
Consider a hawk sliding across the horizon above a vast valley. Looking down from its vantage point, the hawk may experience inner-peace – possibly moments of boredom (if you will permit me to apply these human-oriented emotion labels to a hawk’s subjective experience). A human hang-glider would experience exhilaration, and moments of fear. And maybe…moments of that same inner-peace that the hawk experiences.
Above image from: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/hang-gliding/
When I have joyful flying dreams, my brain is not triggering the fear network. I am experiencing a peaceful freedom from gravity – with touches of exhilaration.
I wish I could become as light and deft (and fearless) as a bird, and watch the world from the tallest treetops in my neighborhood.