gull

This morning I walked down to the rocks overlooking the place where the marsh creek drains into the harbor, and sat for a while watching the birds. A flock of gulls hovered over the water, diving, hitting the surface, and swooping away. Perhaps there was a school of small fish in the creek. Whatever it was, those gulls were pretty excited.

I wondered: what percentage of dives were successful? How many fish per day did these gulls need to survive? Was this a demanding schedule, or were the pickings easy? Of course, conditions would vary. Today there was a school of fish, tomorrow maybe not. Skill levels must vary, too.

The lives of these shore birds makes me think about the economics of food and work. When you see sandpipers running along the water’s edge, you wonder how the calories gleaned from their pickings in the sand could possibly equal the energy expended by their little stick legs. The mandate to constantly seek food seems so unrelenting for birds. Unlike other species, they don’t store a lot of fat, and don’t keep a stash in reserve for an off day. There are no holidays, no weekends, no time off at all. How can they stand it?

I bring this up because it’s Sunday, a day when I feel most strongly the pull between the need to be working (a 24/7 demand for small business owners) and the need to just BE, i.e., sit by the water, do a little yoga, write this blog. Perhaps the pressure to be doing all the time is no more and no less than the survival instinct talking to me. But what about the survival of the soul? That needs to be fed too, right?

I think a Zen master would tell me that I’m making a false split between Being and Doing, one of many delusions concocted by the human mind. Birds don’t make this problem. They have many of the same feelings we have: pain, fear, anger, desire, and probably even something that resembles despair. But they probably never feel resistance to the conditions of their lives. They don’t complain, Why me? It’s not fair! I shouldn’t have to do this! I don’t feel like it! They just do what needs to be done in every moment. So simple!  And for us, so difficult.