“Don’t call it uncertainty—call it wonder. Don’t call it insecurity—call it freedom.” ~Osho
My daughter loves birds. So, as a treat, we all went to a Bird of Prey center near to where we live. Here in the UK, there is a long tradition of keeping these birds. As stated on one hawking site, falconry is “the noble sporting art of flying trained birds of prey.”
Noble or not, I have an issue with keeping birds captive. I had hoped that, in the center we would be visiting, these would be rescue birds.
They were raised in captivity, slightly better than being caught in the wild, but only slightly. There was one area I referred to as Prisoner’s Row. Big, powerful and noble birds like falcons and kestrel chained to a post. A long row of them stuck there for visitors to gawk at.
Yes, they are beautiful, and amazing to see up close, but they are much more beautiful to see flying up there in the wild expanse of sky.
In any case, we were there for the Owl Experience. One by one, they brought out owls, starting with the smallest burrowing owls and getting bigger until the huge and majestic European eagle owl was brought out.
The birds were coaxed over to the leather gauntlet our kids were given to wear. They were stunning and tolerant of us, but it was clear they were doing something against their nature. Owls are not meant to perch on human arms. These owls have been trained to do so, but trained against all natural inclinations.
Then we went out to the flying arena where our children fed them. Chopped up bits of baby chick feet were dangled temptingly in the air then placed on a gauntlet, and eventually and very reluctantly the owl swooped down and picked up the morsel.
They weren’t good flyers, these birds. They knew how to fly but their muscles were weak. They flew short distances and preferred to hop.
It all left me feeling uncomfortable. It was a privilege to see these beautiful creatures up close, but at what cost?
Perhaps it makes me uncomfortable because it is uncomfortably close to our own limited experience of life.
As I watched the owls soar within the flying arena, I wondered why they didn’t simply soar off to freedom. They weren’t chained. Their wings were not clipped. They could do it, if they chose to.
But they stayed. They hopped and half-flew to each wiggly bit of chick foot and hop-flew back to their post, with thinly veiled resentment. But they stayed. And then, after the show, they allowed themselves to be carried back to their cage.
Perhaps the birds are as susceptible to the lure of certainty as we are.
There is the certain provision of chick feet if they fly to their keeper’s arms and back to a post within a small outdoor arena. After all, having been raised in captivity, that’s all they’ve known.
And then there is the great, wild uncertainty that exists beyond the arena. Will there be food there? Will they be able to catch it? Are there unknown dangers lurking in that great blue expanse of sky?
And here’s the clunky metaphor. My husband and I are in our own sort of flying arena at the moment. We’re both in regular jobs, jobs that more often frustrate than inspire, getting regular paychecks.
We’re eating with these paychecks. It may be our own version of chick feet, but, hey, we’re eating. We are testing our wings, though. Flying a bit further. But, for the moment, we are returning to our keeper’s arms.
We gaze out at that broad blue expanse. We know we’re capable of more. We know we haven’t really tested ourselves; we haven’t really indulged our deeper passions. It seems to me that we’ve all been trained to do things against our true nature, and have grown up in this limited, but safe, way.
The few times I’ve flown into uncertain territory have been terrifying but thrilling.
As it has been said, uncertainty is the only certainly. To resist it is to resist our true nature. To resist it is to stay trapped, to accept the cage, the gauntlet, the chick foot for supper. To embrace the uncertain is to fly beyond the arena into that beautiful blue expanse of freedom.
We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the owls can do it. Not just can, we all intuitively know that they should do it. To live in the freedom of uncertainty is infinitely better than to live in the security of captivity.
We know this and wish this better life for the owls. Why, then, can’t we know it and create it for ourselves?
So this is my challenge, to myself, and to you, should you choose to accept it: try something you’ve never done before. Taste something you’ve never tasted before. Read someone you’ve never read before. Say something you’ve never said before. Write something you’ve never written before and then share it.
Step into the unknown and feel it—that ground dropping away, breath-catching feeling. That’s the feeling of the limitless expanse of creative potential. That’s life as it’s meant to be lived.
Man and birds image via Shutterstock