Harrison Middleton University

Joy of Being

Joy of Being

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


February 5, 2021

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.

“Joy, in part, is the justice we give ourselves.” – Dr. Drew Lanham

This post is about the love of being. Also, the love of birds. After listening to Krista Tippett (of OnBeing) interview Dr. Drew Lanham, ornithologist, writer, and Wildlife Biologist at Clemson University, I felt the first few positive strings of hope arrive. Just as birds know it is February, I too, feel some excitement and joy on the horizon. 2020 was a year as I have never experienced, and I am still working through all the changes that took place in my small world, and in the world as a whole. I appreciated Dr. Lanham’s words and they spoke to my desire for a fresh view.

Imagine any bird that lives near you. Imagine how they chatter, or nest or hop. Though some birds are mid-migration, some are mid-song, some are beginning to build a nest, and some still hunkered down for winter, we all have the ability to see birds. This is because many species have capably adapted to city living. And, for me, the important point is that they all sing. Every single bird has a note, a call, a warble, a song. This idea pulls me towards hope, and as Dr. Lanham says, it has the potential to pull us all toward joy. Though he holds voices such as Aldo Leopold and Marvin Gaye, Rachel Carson and Martin Luther King Jr. as necessary and important for his own growth and education, he acknowledges that all birds raise his spirits. They flash color in the darkest of winters. They bounce and play and flit. Nearly every word used in reference to birds is in some way whimsical and magical.

In the article “9 Rules for the Woke Birdwatcher,” Dr. Lanham reminds us that birds are beings. Perhaps we never get to know all about them, but we can notice and enjoy them. The first rule on his list reads: “Lower your binoculars. See bird and person in the full context of their being, feathers or skin. We all share the same air, same water, same earth, and same fate in the end. Don’t just list and be done.”

His short guide to equity ends with rule number nine, which reads: “Keep your personal feel guide close. Equity is a hard bird to find. Diligently search for it in places with common ground. Listen intently to the stories of others, just as you would strain, in the dim dawn hours, to discern the lisps of migratory birds overhead. Discomfort is growth.” Though he is still talking about birds, he is, of course, talking about human nature as well.

Though Dr. Lanham speaks about growth, and that though it may be uncomfortable, it is a continual path. We are always becoming, which means we are always becoming better. He also reminds us to take comfort in the pleasures that we see. Speaking of the cardinal, he says, “Who can ignore a red bird?… And watching a bird sit in the last shafts of sunlight, watching the setting sun blaze through that bird – to me, it gave me this appreciation again for the things that we often pass by: that cardinals, as common as they might be for some of us, ‘common’ is a word that dismisses, sometimes, what we should be paying attention to.” In other words, notice small details, explore the common. And finally, don’t worry about lists and categorization, simply watch and enjoy. That seems like great advice for this February.

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