THE BLACKBIRD AT BREAKFAST-TIME
Whilst waiting for breakfast I looked through the window. A blackbird was
hopping about on the lawn. "How long for?" I wondered. How long can a
blackbird expect to live? I don't know - a few years if it's lucky I
suppose. I must find out some time. "
Why is it living? What is it doing? What does it do during those few yew
in which it is identifiable as an organic entity, described as a form of
Like most other 'forms of life' it spends almost its entire existence
maintaining its organic entity, i.e. 'keeping alive'. Most of the
blackbird's time is spent in searching for food and then consuming it, and
in creating conditions which make that occupation possible, i.e. by
defending its territory.
The blackbird song, about which humans tend to sentimentalise, is not
sentimental to the blackbird. It is the identification signal which lays
claim to territory and defies any challenger.
Its existence is precarious. The blackbird must always be in good health.
There is no such thing as being poorly. There is no medical service, no
recovery room, no convalescence. The blackbird is either healthy or dead.
The blackbird possesses a brain, but one which is designed solely to deal
with the problems of survival. The bird is not only incapable of expressing
ideas (I do not say 'being aware of' because that, although unlikely, we do
not know.) but is also incapable of using the most rudimentary logic other
than that associated with its own survival. e.g. worms must be discovered
And suddenly I felt very frightened, for I am part of the same sort
of life. I am part of that same minute 'biosphere' of a speck in the
universe, a 'biosphere' which, if not unique, is so rare as to be
effectively isolated from anything which may be comparable. And I have more
in common with the blackbird than I have with anything at all outside that
This raises the question of my own 'identity' Am I, in spite of the
attributes of speciality which I have been taught by my own kind to
attribute to myself, am I really anything other than a specially adapted
blackbird - or snail or amoeba for that matter?
Do I have any more significance in 'that which is' than, say, a
blue-green alga ?
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004