rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

Blissless Ignorance

This afternoon, I saw a flock of birds wheeling over my neighborhood. They were moderately large birds, about the size of gulls. Their undersides were white, but the tops of their wings appeared to be black. As they flapped, they created a pleasing display of moving black and white against the blue of the sky. The problem is, I don't know what species they were.

I find this to be a frequent problem. I know the names of many common species of plants and animals, but there are huge gaps in my knowledge. Growing up in a metropolitan suburb, in the last half of the twentieth century, I learned surprisingly little about nature. The books produced by a sophisticated modern culture have taught me something about ecology, but much of the ordinary detail of the natural world is missing. Instead of learning the names of species, and something about their behavior, I learned about Bugs Bunny, movie stars, the various makes of automobiles, the names of presidents and state capitals.

To be sure, I am happy to be a modern urbanite. I think that cities are as natural to humans as Prairie Dog Towns are to that highly social species. But I sometimes envy our ancestors their casual accumulation of knowledge about the natural world, gained in the course of everyday life, without the need to bury their noses in books.

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