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I was watching David Attenborough’s latest series, Life Story, this week and one of the featured animals was a beautiful male flame bowerbird who had spent weeks meticulously building a bower to attract a female.
It was extraordinary to see the level of care and detail that went into his creation as he fidgeted and fussed about enthusiastically.
Then, when he was distracted by a couple of younger males, a rival came in and completely destroyed the bower.
He returned crestfallen and completed a quick inspection of the damage.
Then he did something amazing.
Penny the little penguin was hatched in a small burrow.
For the first few weeks of her life, all that she knew was the small, dark space that she called home.
Then her mum looked at her and said, “It’s time Penny.”
“Time for what mum?”
“It’s time to go out there, to swim in the ocean and catch fish.” her mum replied with a smile.
“But I’m scared,” said Penny, “I’ve heard that there are seals and foxes and sharks that want to eat me, and what if I can’t catch fish? I like it in here, it’s safe and warm and it’s all that I know. Why can’t I stay here forever?”
When a zebra stands out from the rest of the herd, it gets eaten by a lion.
When a pigeon stands out from the rest of the flock, it gets eaten by a hawk.
As social creatures, we often see ourselves in a similar light.
Don’t do anything too outrageous, you’ll be criticised.
A goldfish can’t swim outside of the confines of its small bowl.
A caged canary can’t fly to the sky above.
And a circus elephant does its tricks on command.
But that’s not us.
We’re not caged animals.
To help them flourish and keep the soil moist, we placed a layer of mulch around them.
Now every day, the local blackbirds can be seen hopping and scratching around them, looking for insects and worms to eat. They are relentless in their search, not waiting for the bugs to appear, but seeking actively for them under the surface of the mulch.
As I pondered these persistent little birds, I couldn’t help but wonder how many opportunities we missed because we were waiting for them to jump out at us.
Recent research from San Diego State University found that when some of the larger whales species call to each other, they don’t hear the message, they feel it in their bones.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all communicated like that too?
If instead of just spouting words for people to hear, we delivered messages that truly connected?
If instead of researching facts, we shared stories?
They know that after the playground has cleared, there are easy pickings of sandwiches, fruit or other goodies waiting for them.
My observant oldest son Hayden claims that he has even seen them use their beaks to open up lunchboxes so that they can get to the food within.
So they gather, they swoop and they feast.
What does that have to do with us I hear you ask?
I’ve met a lot of people who act and talk as though they are trapped.
They are truly remarkable.
They hobble around chasing balls and birds with their tails wagging happily, unconcerned by their apparent disability, but just focused on doing what dogs do best.
They love life, never complain and have exactly the same attitude of dogs with four legs.
How we could learn from them.
In some way, most of us are three-legged dogs.
Hayden’s pet blotched blue-tongue lizard, named Bartlett, recently shed its skin for the first time.
It took a few days of rubbing himself against his rocks and branches and eventually the old skin came off and he emerged with new, brighter and more colourful skin.
Lizards and other reptiles shed their skin to allow for growth.
It’s uncomfortable for them and they can get grumpy during the process, but it’s necessary because as their bodies get bigger, they need to burst through their existing covering into new, larger self.
Is it time for you to shed your skin?
It’s true isn’t it?
They hunt for prey that will satisfy them.
They hunt prey that they are equipped to catch.
They seek and find bigger things.
What about you?