6. Functioning well, while knowing better

It was raining, and it was that sort of constant downpour you only really see now and then. Wet and soaking, it was not so much a heavy gutter-filling deluge but a steady showering, a drawn-out session of rain on a windless day that made everything solidly and convincingly wet. But Benny was still 80% sure he would head out regardless, which I knew didn’t really worry him all that much. In fact, I knew there was an undefined enjoyment about his being outside on a rainy day — a vague recognition that wet weather, while being a collective experience for everyone, could also create an interesting segregation between those who happened to be sharing that drenching.

Benny checked the current state of this rainy day by glancing out of a window. “There’s a bird in the tree outside, just sitting there clutching a branch, but still getting wet from all the rain, even though this tree has bigger leaves than others — it’s a loquat tree, like we used to have at home. I’ve always thought it a bit unfair for all the birds and the wild animals whenever it rains, because they just have to get wet; most of the time there’s nowhere they can go to get away from the rain. I suppose some are smarter than others and can find something to hide under, but that’s probably the exception.

“Anyway, I was just looking out the window to check how heavy the rain was before heading out, sort-of to make sure I’d need the umbrella I already had in my hand, and there was this sparrow sitting there in that tree getting wet and being a bit helpless about it. About two seconds later another sparrow landed next to it on the branch, right up against the other bird, which I sort of assumed must be what birds do; hunch up together like that when they get wet in the rain, all dank and raggedly resigned to their situation.

“But then the one new little bird did something impressive. She seemed to look around quickly then edged herself along the branch with a couple of little sidesteps, and this put her right under a big horizontal leaf that made a personal rain shelter for one smart little bird. What a great thing to witness. Maybe they’re a bit more intelligent than most of us assume… well, some of them anyway.”

I’d noticed before with Benny, that displays of mettle from others can firm otherwise irresolute notions for him — even, it seems, if such displays are provided by a small bird… and I think he was also identifying with the competent sparrow under the loquat leaf — so he headed for the door and stepped outside, opening the umbrella while still under the small overhanging shelter above his front door. It was an action that scared away both sparrows.

And so Benny strode briskly to the front gate, and his rainy day began. One small element he noted in passing was an indifference to the fact that he had startled the sparrows into flying off. Yes it was a good moment just then, seeing one smarter than average little bird have a small victory over her soggy circumstances. But after that observation, all that followed was as it should be. It’s not like he was going to be able to go over to the loquat tree and have a conversation with the sparrow, compare leaf to umbrella, pay her a compliment on the sidestepping strategy. And of course an umbrella springing open is going to scare away any bird nearby; that’s what happens! As much as it may have been an intriguing whimsy to impose a sort of human attitude on to the bird, this we knew would be a concoction.

Benny, rather, was back into that easy truce he had found before. Not over-thinking his circumstances, not justifying the view he may have of the world at that time. And really, this was the thing — he knew from experience that there was a shiftiness to the way of things, and that observations of the day-to-day can vary, move, change focus, and become re-framed either by external circumstances or simply through an internal point-of-view.

So Benny was thankful to be engaged in the world, and be out on that wonderfully rainy day, while still functionally walking, eating, working, talking or whatever, but all the while having an awareness that concepts are held together by relative viewpoints, not absolute fundamentals. For now, the world was innocent and could be taken at face value, and he experienced it that way today, all the while in the back of his mind (here, right next to me) knowing that all we think about, and deal with, and assume we know, is not necessarily what it seems to be — or at least may not stay that way.

It was also great to find that the weather now made little difference, and was no longer a distraction or factor that had an influence either way. He rested in a better state of mind, and just felt at home — even when out and about.

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