In his essay, “On Experience”, Montaigne wrote
Nor is there anything more remarkable in Socrates than the fact that in his old age he finds time to take lessons in dancing and playing instruments, and considers it well spent.
Socrates? In his old age? Dancing and playing music?! Well, I never…..
I thought about that the other day when I saw the starlings gathering again in the trees at the top of vineyard. They gather in their dozens, then their hundreds, and then, I suspect (because I haven’t tried to count them), in their thousands. As they settle into the trees they begin a great commotion, all singing and whistling and shouting it seems at the same time. They can keep this up for several minutes and so far I haven’t been able to figure out whether or not they are singing together or just all singing at the same time.
No matter really, because all of a sudden the whole flock falls completely silent – not a cheep! The silence is always, and I mean always, followed by flight. Suddenly they take off as one and fly away from the trees.
Then you can see something quite remarkable. The flock will divide into sub-groups and be joined by yet others you hadn’t even noticed coming. They will swoop down onto the vines, or soar high into the sky. I have no idea how you predict which way they are going to fly next and I can’t see that they all follow a single leader.
They really do seem to fly as one great organism.
I don’t know why they gather and behave like this. I fancy they just like singing and dancing. A bit like Socrates did, it seems…..
When they fly directly overhead the sound of their wings beating the air can take your breath away.
I’m sure they enjoy what they are doing even more than I enjoy watching them, but they affirm for me somehow how one of the best things to do in life is to enjoy living, to celebrate your music and your movement and your ability to join with, and flourish with, others…..