Watch The Bird Dance

The best part about bird documentary for me, is watching the mating dance of a male bird.

That fervent little creature in his splendid attire, hoists his crest, puff up his chest, elongates his tail plumage. He sways a few steps left and then right, he jerks back and forth, he circles and then twirls … He dances to a love song in his head. He is as valiant as a bullfighter, as flamboyant as Michael Flatley in the Riverdance.

To perform the best dance of his lifetime, it takes arduous work just to set up the stage. Sometimes he has to meticulously polish up his scratchy makeshift of a little dance floor in the messy woods. Or he has to spend ages painstakingly weaving the elaborate structure of a magnificent nest, employing visual illusions when necessary. And he might even go as far as teaming with his rivals to perform group dance, just so to slightly increase the likelihood of attracting an audience. Not to mention the hours and hours of rehearsal he has to carry out every day, while awaiting the slight chance for a female to drop in and show interest.

But the female bird, who holds all the cards in the avian world, puts on a rather practical attitude. She turns her back on him, proceeds with her own business, occasionally darts a shrewd look at him. Or she cranes her neck to scrutinize his behavior, constantly shifting her perches so as to investigate from all angles. As if in her little brain, she’s calculating – how many extravagant eyespots there are on his feathers, how many glittering objects he has gathered in his bower, how many good genes he could pass on to her offspring …

I want to say to her, for God’s sake, stop the calculation, just watch the dance, be amazed by the pure beauty and marvelous creativity!

But I suspect birds are unlike human, they don’t use that much of their brain, they just follow their natural calling. The only one who think too much is me. I even project my own assumption and conception onto that unsuspecting little creature, trying to speculate and judge what is going on in her brain.

Why can’t I just watch the bird dance, be amazed by the beauty and creativity in it?

In a Zen koan, a fifty-year-old student says to his teacher, “I have been studying this subject of enlightenment all my life, but one thing I just don’t understand – it says even grass and trees will become enlightened. To me it seems incomprehensible.”

“Of what use is it to ponder how grass and trees become enlightened?” The master replies, “Do you ever attend to your own enlightenment?”

I have no ambition to realize, not even enlightenment to attain. I will just watch the birds following their natural calling.