The Parable of the Birds

I don’t know where I first heard it, but there is a lovely little tale known as “The Parable of the Birds:” One Sunday all the birds put on their bird suits and their bird dresses and waddled down the bird street to their bird church. And there they sang their bird hymns and offered up their bird prayers. Then the bird preacher waddled up to the bird podium and said, “You’re birds! You can fly! You don’t have to waddle anymore!” Afterward he waddled to the back of the auditorium just before all the other bird members waddled past him, each saying, ‘Good bird sermon.’ They each waddled out of the bird church building and waddled all the way back to their bird homes.

Waddling & Will

We all know most of the same basic things that are expected of anyone. We know about diet and exercise, but we still hit the pizza buffets. We know about what smoking does to the lungs, but we will still spend more on cigarettes than baby formula this year. We know that alcohol leads to a lack of control in driving, in relationship, and every moment tainted by a lack of sobriety, and yet we will numb our brains as soon as we get home, just before we go to bed, and partake in excess this and every weekend.

I’m not trying to preach on vices, but I want to demonstrate that people do a lot of things they know they are not supposed to do, but they do it anyway. It’s not just a matter of knowing better. And even if you watch your diet and abstain from smoke and drink, there is something else in your life you do regularly, and you know better. Whether it’s too much TV, Internet, or shopping, we are all made of the same common clay, and all equally weak.

To put it bluntly, mankind suffers from a problem of will more than understanding. We all do what we want to do. Arthur Schopenhauer said, “You cannot want what you want.” Is that true? Do we have no control over what it is we want? Sorry, Artie, but I disagree. It takes discipline and self-control, but we can change what it is we want to do and alter our actions thereby.

Will & Writers

So what does that have to do with us writers? How many of the composition regulators do we all ignore, me included? Every writer knows to write every day, but I don’t. Why, because I’ve never heard anyone say that? No, simply put, I don’t want to. We all know to show and don’t tell, use strong action verbs, cut back on modifiers, murder our darlings, and so forth. But do we all do these things? Successful writers do all of these things and more.

What it takes, for me and you, is to change what we want. I want to be a successful writer, so I will write every day. We can want what we want, but it’s hard to change habits. With determination and a new will, we can accomplish that in which we aspire. Remember, you are a bird! You can fly!


What’s your opinion? Waddle on down to the Comments section and tell me what you’re thinking.


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4 responses to “The Parable of the Birds

  1. “Arthur Schopenhauer said, ‘You cannot want what you want.’ Is that true? Do we have no control over what it is we want? Sorry, Artie, but I disagree.”

    I’m not sure that’s what Schopenhauer meant. The implication I always got from “You cannot want what you want” is that you can’t be *perfectly* in alignment with your own desires. Certainly he would concede that we can impact them in some way. I think his larger point, however, is that will can (or must) trump desire. Think of St. John of the Cross, for whom the Mass had lost all joy. In the end, he regarded this occurrence as a blessing, since it allowed his choice to attend church to be the result of free will, and not just a base desire for it’s beauty.

    Of course, we aren’t all saints, and I’d rather find fulfillment in writing than have to overcome powerful “wants.” Still, if I manage to write without always wanting to, is that failure?

    • Hey Richard. Good to hear from you again.

      As I understand Shopenhauer, Will is subjective. It is free and non-rational. But still, we’re talking about a difficult concept by a philosopher who is hard to understand, so I could very well be wrong.

      St John X is a good example. I remember after I first read Dark Night of the Soul I had a knot in my stomach for hours. It just shows that sometimes even dead habits can become our will if nothing of real determination replaces them.

      Thanks for reading, and I appriciate your comment. I hope to hear from you soon again.

  2. tammyjrizzo

    I remember this parable of the birds, now that I read it. You told me about it a few weeks ago, didn’t you? I like how you use it. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Top Ten Best Blog Posts For 2012 | A WORD FITLY SPOKEN

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