Lessons from a White Bird

I wonder if it knows it is different. It seems to act like all the other jays, hopping about, snagging a few peanuts we offer at our bird feeder. It also seems to interact with the so-called normal jays in ways typical of its species. But, in outward appearance, this usually blue and gray bird is almost completely white. It would be considered an albino variant of a California scrub jay. Technically it is not a true albino since has a bit of gray/blue on its head—but it is close enough.

I do not know much about the status of an albino within a flock, but I like to think the other birds don’t really care. I suppose in species that rely on displays of color to attract a mate, this variation might have a little trouble. But, who knows, maybe it is a refreshing difference to a prospective mate. This, of course, is all a projection of my mind and does not really have any objective validity. I still like to ponder phenomena as a symbolic moment.

I asked Lama Rinchen if he knew of any traditional wisdom assigned to the appearance of an unusually colored bird. He thought a white bird was a good omen but had no other information. I think I will decide it is a good omen. It certainly attracts my curiosity and awe. Nature has a way of challenging us to let go of our tendency to dismiss things through our idea of external sameness. “All California scrub jays look the same,” we might say, even though normally-colored individuals vary widely in plumage and hues. This white one smacks me out of any complacency in this regard.

I think the middle way taught in Buddhism suggests we find the sweet spot in our awareness in which we recognize diversity within sameness, or sameness within diversity. Something connects all life even as it expresses diverse sizes, shapes, colors, and in the case of humans, diverse viewpoints and ideologies. Just as I mused that the other birds may not care about the albino in their midst, I also like to rest in awareness that what my mind sees as difference is really just one variation of sameness.

“Same as me,” might be a universal mantra for global healing—recognizing and honoring diversity while acknowledging we all share the same earth, water, air, and sunshine. We are all made of those elements and will dissolve into them when we die. So, why all the fuss? Everything is a good omen when we look through the eyes of compassion.

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