Sunday, August 14, 2011

Traveling like a Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Hummingbirds have captured human imagination for millennia.  In fact, the hummingbird is one of the figures depicted in the Nazca Lines.  While any species of hummingbird is fascinating, the migration of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is especially impressive.  They travel from the Canadian prairies to Central America, crossing the Gulf of Mexico in one 500-mile non-stop trip.  For the rest of their migration, they travel about 20 miles each day, although they can fly at speeds approaching 35 miles per hour.  Unlike some migratory birds, Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly solo, each bird having its own internal map.

A one-hour exploration of the fascinating hummingbird.
Dozens of animals migrate.  Even more have adapted to life in one locale.  If a hummingbird suddenly questioned its internal map (something I don't really think a hummingbird can do, but stay with me here)... If a hummingbird questioned its internal map and looked to some other creature to follow, it would surely die.  A hummingbird can't follow the migratory pattern of a goose or a fruit bat or a dogfish shark.  And although there might be a narrowly-defined territory with the perfect consistent temperature and a plentiful food supply, the hummingbird is not wired to stick around in the same quarter-acre for its entire life.  It has an instinctive drive to make an incredible bi-annual journey (well, maybe the hummingbird doesn't see it as incredible, but from the outside it certainly appears so).

When I look back at the last two years (and beyond), I have taken some direction from different sorts of creatures.  Some creatures have found their meaning in a rigid organizational structure, some creatures have found their meaning in dollar figures, and some creatures have found their meaning in a set of ideals which they may or may not actually practice in everyday life.  Some of the creatures I have looked to for direction run in  packs with clearly defined leaders, some of them wander as herds, and some of them are predatory.  To most of these creatures, their existence makes perfect sense.  It's how they are wired.  It's where they are comfortable.  It's what they are willing to accept.  Whatever.  But a perfect environment for one creature is not a perfect environment for every creature.

A broad-billed hummingbird in flight.
Over the past few months (aided by a slight geographic change to a new city), I have started to recognize just how much I have judged my path by other people's standards.  I invent the game of my life, but for some reason I have wanted to use other people's rules.  Maybe I thought that other people knew more than me or knew better than me, and on some topics that would be absolutely accurate.  On the topic of what makes for a fulfilling life, however, no one else has access to my internal map.  I might be driven to bulk up and fly for 500 miles straight in what seems like a mad proposition (to some creatures), or I might jump from one nectar-rich idea to another so fast that other creatures think I'm inconsistent or unreliable.  I know that I can fly pretty fast sometimes, but there are days when I spend 80% of my time digesting.

Hello, my name is Randy Partain.  I am a composer and pianist who loves collaboration with other creative thinkers.  I am a spiritually-minded atheist who still finds value in ideas from many religious traditions.  I can be an incredible strategist and an insightful critic, and I usually listen well when other people speak.  I have an internal map that may seem bizarre to some, but when I trust it I can travel like a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  It is a genuine pleasure to be able to introduce myself.

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