“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
I was a bird. I’d flap my wings and the world would move beneath me.
I climbed to new heights and rode the currents to lands known and uncharted.
This was the only life I knew. Flight was so simple, so fast, so elegant.
That I could soar clearly meant that I myself was elegant, strong and quick.
I came to love the company of the other birds.
Together we sang and played as if gravity were not a law but a suggestion.
I looked down and felt the yearnings of those toiling on the earth
And I yearned to have them join me; those people of stone and clay and steel.
Be less heavy, I urged them through thoughts both silent and spoken.
Unburden yourselves from these materials of great mass.
Forget your towers and your bridges, your fears and your plans
For it is these that bind you to the soil; it is these that keep you down.
Some people heeded the call of the birds
They sighed their last sigh, hammered their last nail
And took to the sky to move from place to place by will and cheer alone,
Never again to make a journey by first taking a single step.
I have started a new journey now and it began as they so often had.
The thrill was my sun and vitality. My friends were my wind and my air.
Us birds were first to every milestone. We shared our bird’s-eye-view when we could.
Beak glinting like a beacon in the sky, I soared and I spun as I’d always done.
I was a bird. I’d flap my wings and I THOUGHT the world would move beneath me.
There is a funny thing about flight. Flapping ones wings is not enough.
To glide requires the wind, the air, the heat of the sun. Every inch I’d ever moved I owed to them.
Without them, I was no more mobile than the stone I’d grown to detest.
I’d traded the bonds of steel and stone, for shackles more ethereal.
Destinations and origins always had seemed close to me; no mountain seemed too high.
But the path of the avian among us becomes treacherous in a storm.
Flight becomes impossible when a bird grows weary; impossible without the sun or the moving air.
The Journey has become long now and the time for distractions is small.
My wings are tired of flapping and the sun and the air have grown sparse.
I fear that I must land now and blaze a path in a brand new way.
This terrain is alien and scary to me. I am not used to the sky being so far.
I flex my toes and take my first steps; faltering like the clumsiest of toddlers.
However will I reach where I am going with so many obstacles littering my path?
There are rivers and valleys to cross and mountains to peer over
Yet I am stuck here in the land of the stone and clay and steel.
As I search for those I thought were still behind me,
‘Toiling and tinkering with their materials of great mass,’
I realize I am alone. I look around, begging for something familiar, but experience only emptiness and silence.
Surrounded by hardness, I begin to miss the clouds and sky. I sometimes look up at what I’ve lost.
That’s when I see them: those people of work and toil:
Far above me in the clouds I see the products of their efforts.
I see the towers and the lanterns serving as beacons to let others know they are there.
These toilers are now the children of the sky and I am the one bound to the earth.
The lack of sun or wind will not shake them in their towers. To them, gravity is not a law but a suggestion.
From there they can see the other people of stone whose hard won bridges have gotten them to their goals.
Their toils took them time but the path they’ve made across the valleys will not shake
A bridge is neither ethereal nor ephemeral. It is methodical and elegant and strong.
The stone and steel, whose mass once scared me, I realized offered permanence and strength.
I once thought that through passion alone one could meet any challenge under the sky
I believed that only through chasing dreams could one reach the stars.
To toil I felt was solely the purview of those who hadn’t learned
that there exist shorter distances between A and B than that straight line that so many seem to love.
And while I still feel this to be true, I see that often the straightest line is the strongest path.
My hubris has begat a new humility and an appreciation for a day of honest work.
I now see that a balloon that isn’t “tied down” drifts away far too fast to serve its purpose.
On this new unfathomable journey I must learn to embrace these ‘materials of mass and substance.’
As I, a creature so dependent on being light that even my very bones are hollow,
struggle to make the journey of a thousand steps I will need some guidance and support.
I need to build a brace to strengthen my brittle untested legs for what’s to come
I shall build it of wood and flint and not the clouds and breezes of my former dominion.
To the toilers: While once I looked down and willed you to join me in the sky, now it is I who peers up at you.
You who remain suspended high above the earth without depending on anything but your bridges,
built so carefully and held together by your own sweat and elbow grease.
You people for whom the world is linear, and for whom order and discipline come naturally
I must ask of you a favor:
Teach me to be a stonemason, to build a foundation tall and strong
Prepare me for when the wind dies down so that I shall not fall.
Teach me to be a welder; to build connections one beam, one step, at a time
Prepare me to get where I am going when I have grown too weary to spread my wings.
Do this and I promise you, when our fatigue begins to wane and the sun and air return to give us strength,
I will cast off the braces from my legs and use their flint and wood and steel to light in you a spark.
I will show you what it means to be a bird. To let go of the details and dream without restraint,
To get somewhere simply because you want to be there and fully believe that nothing can stop you.
Together then we can build bridges to the ends of the earth and towers to the limits of the sky
And then upon reaching the limits of perseverance and toil, we can use these “boundaries,”
As our origin and then as “birds” surpass these limits, soaring higher and farther than any thought possible.
Together we can become physicians who help keep our patients strong of body and light of spirit.
Stones and Air, Steel and Sun. Substance and Freedom.
Balancing Birds and Bridges Breeds Bolder Breakthroughs.