The Life of a Bird on the Sidewalk
The bird was just...standing on the sidewalk. Not moving. We thought it was just resting or whatever birds do. It was a young bird, a cardinal that hadn't quite shed the grey feathers for the inevitable crimson.
We didn't want to scare it away. It seemed rather peaceful and we were mere feet from it. She took a picture and then I noticed that there were bugs crawling on its face.
"I think it might be dead."
"What? Oh my god? Really?"
I looked closer and it didn't seem to be breathing.
"I'll take care of it."
Others came out and determined that it was breathing but was obviously in its death moment. I stepped closer to see if it would move and it hopped, slightly, to the side causing everyone to spasm.
We decided to let it die in dignity and left it alone. Later, someone else had removed the tiny corpse.
"Why did it die like that? What happened? It was so sad."
"Things die. That's part of the deal. And Nature is not polite about it."
Coming to grips with the impolite brutality of Life is an obsession with we humans. My guess is that animals don't hold on to such sentimental dimestore philosophies about how precious life is. Being alive, simply existing, is as commonplace and unspecial as anything in our tiny corner of the Universal Warehouse. Life is, to coin the tired phrase, cheap.
Living is the thing, isn't it? Living is taking the basic functionality of breathing and eating and shitting and procreating some more life and elevating it to purpose. Living is creating things that live on past the cheap, disposable life we all possess. Living is about thoughtful purpose - choosing a path to follow and then moving each foot down that path, regardless of the fatigue and pain of even conceiving of taking just one more step. Living sometimes takes turns we don't foresee, cause us to hurt the ones we love, put us in situations that force the hand to choose a direction that seems risky or stupid or just inconvenient.
The bird was alive. It likely ate and flew and shit and chirped. It was almost certainly trusted and betrayed, lauded and hated, and maybe even tweeted some really offensive things that came back to haunt him in the form of social media. But its legacy -- the part that lives on -- comes from we thinking creatures that can and do imbue that momentary, cheap and meaningless life, with import. Living requires thought and purpose and a reliance on the rest of the planet for inspiration and context.
Living is the thing.