Reflection 1: Dying Crow

October 4, 2008

(Copyright © 2008) 

We are all experts on one thing: our own stream of consciousness. Or could be if we worked at it. But we usually fall short. In everyday life we make the fundamental error of taking our awareness to be of the world and not a product of our own mental processes. That is, we forget that the world is brought to us courtesy of the complex nervous system lying between it and us. Taking the workings of our brains for granted, we simply delete them as if they didn’t exist. Voila, reality is as we picture it. Or so we find it convenient to believe.


In this blog I am going to work at it—whatever you want to call it. My subjective experience. My mind. My cluttered awareness. My stream of consciousness. My personal understanding (by which one part of my mind stands under or supports another part). Take for example this snippet.


I am driving along a country road and see a dead crow ahead. No, not dead, a dying crow—its wing still feebly flapping the air. A shadow on the edge of the shoulder showing signs of life. What should I do? For me, this is a worst-case scenario. I can’t just drive by and leave it to suffer. I am aware of strong feelings welling within me. I don’t want to stop and wring its neck, but what else can I do? I’d rather keep going. I am conflicted. Then, as I approach the dying crow, I see it differently—a trash bag blowing in the wind. Yes, definitely, a black plastic bag agitated by the wash from passing cars. Relieved, I drive on.


What I first saw was a dying crow. That was my lived reality. The size was right, the color, the lift of the wing. I had the whole scenario worked out in my head, a low-flying bird colliding with an on-rushing car. I had seen it many times before with crows, gulls, pheasants, owls. But that was only a first approximation. As my approach filled in additional details, the crow morphed into a trash bag of similar size and complexion displaying a similar motion. My mind had tricked me. I had tricked myself. Unconscious fears and expectations had led me astray. I put one and one together and came up with three.


That’s the kind of situation I want to deal with in this blog. How could I be so wrong? How could I be so confused about my life situation? About the meaning or interpretation of a straightforward sensory image?


This is no trivial matter. Combat veterans bring compelling, life-threatening images from battle with them when they re-enter civilian life. Where they are triggered by a backfiring car, a sudden movement, driving under a bridge, a dead animal on the side of the road. When dread hijacks day-to-day expectations, the past is relived in the now, old battles are fought over and over again. A routine drive to the mall gets waylaid by a patrol in another time and place.


Consciousness is given to us so that we can adjust our actions appropriately to our life situations. Reflexes, training, and habits are sometimes sufficient to the occasion. But when novelty rears its unfamiliar head, they will not suffice. We are out of our element and must rely on judgment to advise us what to do. And often we misjudge our situations, as I did in confronting a crow dying by the side of a road. Not a one-time event. I keep finding myself in similar situations, acting inappropriately because I don’t really understand what’s going on.


Consciousness is not given us; we earn it through hard work. That work is what this blog is about.


6 Responses to “Reflection 1: Dying Crow”

  1. epiphileon said

    Hello Steve, I left a comment on your profile, and then set about becoming a member and finding the beginning of your blog. I thought you might find this attempt at poetry I wrote over twenty years ago interesting, in light of this post.
    The Mythical Ideal
    Largely determined, but with a spirit for freedom
    The “I” of the mind turns upon itself
    Not the warped reflections of external mirrors
    from within
    This one aspect of brain/self
    With a seeing that is not visual
    Looks upon the determined self
    And seeks to change age old aspects of mind/self
    The mirrors of the soul are ancient and many
    And the defenses of the heart have the strength of eons
    Adolescent consciousness questing for freedom
    applies young cognition, and infant reason
    But too often this quest becomes a war!
    And aye
    I have been
    to long A SOLDIER!!!

    • Steve Perrin said

      I am deeply honored to meet a man who wishes to start at the beginning! Most of us take the moment for what we can make of it rather than trying to see it in depth. The mirrors of the soul are ancient and many, and the defenses of the heart have the strength of eons–yes! Making sense of the mind is like trying to escape from a hall of mirrors–every image has self at the center. Too often this quest becomes a war–but if we are not on friendly terms with ourselves we will never come to understand ourselves or the world beyond. I have infinite curiosity, so keep going. I’ve posted 104 blogs (some in the chute not yet published), and the deeper I dig the farther I want to go. Thanks for the feedback. –Steve from Planet Earth

  2. epiphileon said

    (fifth attempt) Sir, no single word, could possibly convey the experience, of my state of mind, at reading your responses, certainly profound honor is a component. I have looked long upon long, for one who understands, and is of the nature that is bidden to this quest. ( I get the impression that you could sooner live in the vacuum of space, than set this question aside) May I ask when you first became aware of the imperative of this line of inquiry?

    • Steve Perrin said

      I started working on how we interpret reality back in the late 1970s. That burst of activity took me from metaphors to mythology–quite a leap. But I found a core of understanding linking the two worlds at different scales, and came to realize the common denominator was my own consciousness. I then got off onto other matters of practical necessity, then last fall realized I wasn’t going to live forever, and if I didn’t pursue this quest, I would fail to be me. I couldn’t live with that, so decided, while I have the energy and health, to jump into my own head with both feet to see what i could stir up. I posted my 105th blog today (to appear May 20th–I seem to be working about a month ahead of myself. Thanks for sharing gleanings from your own consciousness. No need to dress up or pretend. The real substance will do. Thanks again. –Steve fr. Planet Earth

  3. epiphileon said

    No need to dress up or pretend. The real substance will do. Thanks again.
    Not sure what you mean by this Steve. In any case. I want to recommend a book, I can not possibly convey, (without sounding some kind of weird), how much I believe you want to read the first 1/3 of this book at least. Some of your notions have parallels in it. Consider the opening sentence to the introduction…
    “Oh what a world of unseen visions and heard silences this insubstantial country of the mind….”
    The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
    Don’t let the title put you off the first third of this book is truly a wondrous, even if at times a bit difficult.

    I think you’ll particularly like the analogy of a flashlight in a dark room, and the discussion of language will have you dancing in your seat. Oh and as well there is the whole “analog I”, “metaphor Me” discussion.

    It is available on Amazon pretty cheaply too, I just got a used version for I think a couple bucks. I’m about to begin a reread on it, I would love to have another mind to dialog with, about it.

    • Steve Perrin said

      I think what I meant is that speaking directly from consciousness detours around our convention of trying to make a point or an impression for the sake of a particular social effect. I was not implying that your strive for effect, merely that when two conscious beings connect, there is no need to conform to convention. That is one of the discoveries I have made by taking the introspective route to understanding the mind. Thanks for the book suggestion. It will take me time to get the book, digest it, and get back to you. –S fr P Earth

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