Our individual worlds are pretty well defined by our corporate interaction and collective perception. We spend much of our time rubbing alongside one another, identifying with like-minded people in clusters and tribes.
We all belong to institutions, but what lies at the centre of this tribal experience of the world and do we tend towards exclusive or inclusive processes of organsation?
Over the past few weeks we’ve been treated to something rather spectacular outside the window as evening sets in. Huge, intimidating, pulsing black clouds, bulging with rhythm, swelling and shrinking through the sky. It’s an incredible display of beauty and is apparently a murmeration of starlings preparing to roost for the night.
I invariably become mesmerised by the display. More and more birds join the dance. It looks choreographed and staged. The sort of thing humans would pay good money to see. It contains the a level of aesthetic charm that humans could never achieve without technology.
It’s so easy to get lost in it. Alone you wouldn’t notice the tiny birds that are only a little bigger than a robin, but they come together and create this giant creature full of power and elegance, towering above us.
Why? To protect themselves in large numbers, to keep warm, and to share information about feeding areas.
Their goal is not to give humans a nice evening show after a hard days work. That is merely a byproduct for us.
We all play a part in murmerations and human swarms. We allow ourselves to be led, and we allow others to follow us.
1. You can’t see what you’re doing when you’re in the crowd
I was watching yesterday as everyone who walked down our street found their eyes being drawn up to the skies, and like me they couldn’t look away. But only from our perspective, outside of the flock, can you see the beauty. For the birds it’s a purely practical exercise.
We can never see the bigger picture. It’s impossible. If we’re in there doing something then we can’t be outside it assessing its impact or perception on a larger scale. If that’s what we’re looking to do then we’re doing it for the wrong reasons. It’s the difference between genuine, authentic culture and the kind of perception-driven culture that defines much of western society today.
Authentic culture is the byproduct of human experience, not something we can manipulate without eventually being found out.
2. Empowering the Flock
I don’t know who the leader of the great swarm was. I don’t know whether they had one or whether like a snowball the murmeration picks up starlings as it goes and they kind of move with a subconscious magnetism that leads them.
Every single one of those birds is important, and from our perspective none of them are more significant than the others. If there is leadership within the flock its objective is to create a singular entity, to empower all of the birds as key members of this big body.
A leader inspires, supports, and empowers people. They can do that from anywhere, and moreover they don’t have to do it in front of large crowds. They can do it from within.
3. The Bird is Not Consumed
As the murmeration grows it changes. It swells and moves in different ways. I noticed last night that there were two separate clouds and as time went on one of them started to shrink. The starlings were gradually moving over to join the larger cloud. From what I could tell there wasn’t a sense of the small cloud being consumed by the big cloud, but rather the birds were being absorbed into the big cloud as they moved across. Eventually there was one huge murmeration, pulsing with a brand new rhythm across the sky.
The movement was created by the whole crowd, and changed by the new birds, it was not dictated by those who started it just because they got there first. This is a healthy institution. Not one that tolerates new members but tells them to join a pre-constructed rhythm (consuming them), but one that invites the new members to get involved in creating a brand new rhythm. A rhythm that speaks for all the flock.