Saturday, March 28, 2009

A bird beating his head against the window

This spring as birds are nesting there's been a Robin that seems to want to get through a small window in my wife's closet in an attempt to pass through the window into what he sees beyond. Many mornings I hear him pecking or flailing against the window - sometimes for what seems hours at a time.

At first I thought he'd eventually give up in more fruitful pursuits, but this continued day after day, and now many weeks later the bird's still doing the same thing. This morning I heard him doing the same thing - again for hours. My initial thought is "stupid bird" but then I got to thinking about the line between reasoned thought and hard-wired behavior, and perhaps how the lines between the two are blurred.

I say "blurred" because it seems many (most?) studies on the mind and consciousness seem to show that in many cases we have less control over thought and decisions than we think - - that our conscious mind seems to often rationalize that "it" has control when really the decisions/thoughts have already happened underneath in the compartmentalized and subconscious areas of the brain. (I don't have sources but with CATscan imaging scientists can even determine what decision a person will make before a person makes it - or at least before the person realizes his mind has already made a decision for him, and he hasn't consciously recognized it.)

In any event, at first glance beating your head against a wall for weeks on end for hours at a time isn't something you'd expect an advanced human mind to do, but in a different context is it really all that much different than all the counterproductive things we do in our lives. For example - all the bad habits we have? Are some of the things that people do really all that different from that bird beating his head against a window?

Addictions are some of the first examples that come to mind, but aren't there many more hard-wired things that we do - rationalized or not - that are not that much different than the robin at the window?

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