The Name of Life

February 17, 2010
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Whirling, churning, seething, it dipped and soared through all creation, a master of motion from end to end like a dark snake of pure energy - a massive flock of birds, blackly winged, swift and sleek. Where they came from and where they reigned, swirling across in corkscrews of stark beauty, words fail to describe. All was unreal and nameless and lacking imagination, and nothing alive whispered in that blankness between things. It was the flock that conquered this empty place and filled it with a stunning but terrible silence.

In the midst of the mass
One of them knew itself.
In the heart of the horde
Being came to -be-.

In a rushing of wings...

In a rushing of wings the entire flock surged forth. Unlike their usual motions, the flock did not continue their ceaseless flight, but gathered their numbers in a vortex that began to spiral upward, out of sight, as if on signal. In all of eternity, the flock had never left, had always been, but soon their numbers had dwindled until it was all but a few birds straining up, up, up, until they were gone forever.

One was left behind. Dizzy and keenly sad he watched them go, the only one to witness their departure. But even as regret suffused him, so began a wonderful harmony that beat on the inside.

"Who are you?" the single one wondered. What he really wondered was this: who am I?

The harmony beat insistent: it was his own heartbeat, and a special heartbeat it was, with a voice deeper and more primal than his own. The period of reality was imminent. A messenger had been chosen. Sitting still, he closed his eyes as mind and heart fired at one another, questions and answers that blended into a whole once everything had been said.

'How do I do this?' mind asked, and heart guided him. Rising into the air, the flockmate probed forward into his mission timidly at first, doing uncertain little twirls, and soon was flitting back and forth, stirring the first air into the world with motion. Soon he was singing, voice rising in a liquid scale, near to bursting with the happiness of being alive.

Emptiness pressed in; the span of it was too great, swallowing up the color of his love and the harmony. The flockmate hovered uncertainly as things failed to respond, darting back and forth. Where was everyone? It was too empty. Without their masters, the flock, all of creation had drawn back in on itself, timid and unused to the presence of anything other than nothing.

Start small. Start small like he himself had started, a sunflower seed spat from the heart of the world, and knew it would soon grow.

Hopping, hopping, hopping, he listened for a voice that needed the knowing, listened close to the sounds that were still. And one voice answered. He obligingly whispered a name to that part of creation and felt it respond. It was the dirt beneath his feet, becoming something that passed on the whisper till it felt like a breath of wind - cool, ruffling wind darting between his feathers. Now things had truly begun.

Voices broke into a jealous cacophony, floodwaters breaking free with a single word. Listen to me! they called, and he cried back the names of the trees and bushes, the sky so blue, the sea rough and the clouds carefree. Listen! clamored thousands upon thousands that multiplied as the word spread. All waited to hear that little voice with a longing that had never been allowed to exist - the longing to simply be.

"I know you!" he trilled with purest joy, joy incarnate in the flutter of dusty wings and the beat of a small brave heart.

"I know who you are!" cried he to everything, and everything drew close to listen.

"I can hear you all!" sang the little brave bird, and it was true as truth.

And was this task a hard one? To him it was all that could ever be asked for, after existing with a body no more than part of the flock's hive mind. Inconsequential. Nothing. All suddenly looked to him as a savior, to bring more of the world into bloom. Skimming the air, breathing it in rich with flowers, rich with rain, lightning and loam, touching branches above places that may never been seen by other than bright black eyes, peeking in a moment and then gone for the rest of time. Watching everything come alive in flesh and blood. To cry out in glory for life!

Years passed in constant work, because although he had strength enough to do the task without rest, he was only one creature. Wingbeat by wingbeat life and land spread. It was an endless task.

Night still covered the world in a cool sheet of newly born stars. Whispering the words to a name only the smallest and unworthiest of creatures would bear, the white pale things of pools hidden in darkness, the little bird was distracted by a stirring of brightness in his heart, unexpected, like a friend visiting from long ago. 'Are you happy?' it asked gently, sounding full of pity. 'Was it worth it?'

He touched a beak to the newly named creature, watched it slipslither away, lifted his head to look at the moon and stars, and realized the world stretched out all around him for the first time. Completed, beautiful. "It was worth it." he sang back, voice burning in his throat with awe.

Worth even his own life. For at the end of it all, the brightness offered up a name so full of meaning that it was a burden to carry, and the bird accepted without realizing what he was being given. It hurt more than anything. It was more than he could handle, and moments before the burden overflowed, he cried out the name of the Sun.

Things burst into light, blinding and brilliant and beautiful. Rays drew life out of starved places, coaxed them into fulfillment, making the world respond as it had once responded to the voice of a tiny bird, who reeled, dazzled and wondering, only another creature before this great power. Even as sunlight bathed him, exhaustion deeply shook his limbs, and darkness yawned beneath. It was too much taken. It failed the strength in him and sending him sinking down, down, down, the harmony beating gentle goodbyes, bathed in golden light from the new star. "Thank you." all of nature whispered, and all knew him as he knew them. And in death he was not alone.

On touching the earth that had been the first to listen, the light fled and took him into silence, where his brothers were waiting, a judging gathering that regarded him, dead and alone, without words.

"You aren't angry?" finally came that tiny question, offered up with an echo in that place. In bringing the names, he had banished them all. Forgiven or annihilated, he had lived to see the sun - do what they will, for he had no more regrets.

In answer, the flood of nothing and darkness surrounded that small spark of light, naming dancing on a rustle of dull wings, naming him and taking him away to where all things go when they die. To their dark brothers of the other side. All in peace, all in a different kind of glory, but one still steeped with power.

The earth, the sun, who even in its mighty glory gave way to the moon at night, the green rustling trees and the sky and the sea and the animals and especially the birds, who had mortal hearts and souls and minds but carried a speck of that long ago ancestor in their selves, along with the memory of he who made the world and whose brothers would end it someday, as was the way of things.

Everything had one thing in common.

A little bird told them all the name of Life, and they would never forget.

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