It’s a great loss when we train ourselves to stop receiving beauty

I can learn to decipher what their calls might mean, but it would be a great loss, a bizarre and ungrateful act, to deliberately train myself to stop hearing their music as music.

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10 thoughts on “It’s a great loss when we train ourselves to stop receiving beauty”

      1. Yep–birds here in CA all year long. Dawn to dusk. The doves are my favorite. I can’t remember if they coo all year long. We used to have an aviary of them, but they multiplied so quickly that we gave up and let them all go. They’re so gentle that they just stuck around and nested in the hanging flower pots–that is until the birds of prey picked them all off one by one. Sniff.
        Oops sorry.
        Up North we have some kind of Nightingale that goes ALL NIGHT LONG. It’s almost annoying and wakes us up.
        Eh, sorry.
        In the redwood forest the lack of birdsong is almost eerie. The tannin in those towering giants doesn’t allow burrowing bugs so there is no food. All you hear is hawks and crows. It’s kind of scary at night. If there is wind, the redwoods look like they are giants, marching. All you can hear is a kind of moaning. We once had a crazy German neighbor who would play Count Dracula style piano with all of his doors and windows open late into the night. It was cool though.

  1. As an avid birdwatcher, I have to take issue with your premise that understanding birdsong better would somehow spoil its beauty. Do you think learning more about music would spoil Mozart for you? Generally, knowing more about something increases how much you’re able to notice, and hence how much beauty you can see. E.g., I recently put the work into learning to distinguish the 10 or so main species I hear singing on a walk around the block in my neighborhood – and suddenly I can hear several different songs in what I would have perceived only as one big jumble before. I can also notice individual variations now between say, the house finch in my yard’s song and the one four doors down. I assure you, it hasn’t decreased my enjoyment!

    1. To answer your question, I do often feel like some people know too much about music to be able to enjoy the beauty of (for example) the music at a typical Sunday mass. I know very little about music, don’t have a trained ear, and love the sound of songs that are decent enough and familiar, played by volunteers, and sung by normal people.

    2. I didn’t say and didn’t mean to imply that understanding birdsong will spoil its beauty! I have certainly found that when you understand the inner workings of a symphony, you can enjoy the beauty of it more, not less.What I’m talking about is people who will insist, “That’s not a song, that’s a distress call!” or ‘That’s not music, that’s information!” By extension, I was talking about people who forget about the beauty of our Faith and get all caught up in the mechanics, logistics, or controversies which are a part of it, but not it itself.

      1. I see – agreed. Although what the birds really mean might be less disillusioning than you think: an interesting thing about songbirds is that, as far as anybody can tell, their music apparently IS music to them. Songbirds actually have both calls – such as distress calls, threats of aggression, etc. – and, quite distinct from those, a song, or in some cases, many songs. Calls are instinctive; songs are learned and individually varied. Songs have territorial and mating uses (as human music can) but they are also sung in times and places that seem to serve no utilitarian purpose. So anybody who tells you it’s not music probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about: they’re just applying their a priori Cartesian assumptions.

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