God of the Starling, God of the Murmuration

I wrote this a year ago at Easter, long before any of us had heard of Corona Virus.  During this extraordinary time in our lives and history, I wanted to share this post again.  It is my wish that my story of searching for the Divine will give you hope and comfort.  Please be sure to scroll down to the video at the end:  it’s stunning!!


Easter is very late and yet it snuck up on me this year.  I seem to have left the Church and surprisingly, I don’t miss it.  I often say to friends that if I’d intended to leave Catholicism for logical reasons, I would have done it decades ago.  No, I left because I became too sad attending mass after the death, first of my mother, and then my cousin Joanne.  After that, the Franciscan priests left Sacramento, leaving my parish to a conservative and ambitious bishop.

I thought I could stop going to church and maintain some kind of connection to Christianity, but I seem to be letting go of that too.  The other day I took a joke quiz on Facebook and it told me I should be a Wiccan. I almost got to be a Buddhist (a philosophy for which I’ve often felt an affinity), but you see I have a black cat, so the quiz recommended a coven.

The truth is I don’t really want to join up with anything resembling a religion.  Not now anyway.  Maybe that will change.  I still think Jesus is a swell guy.  He said, “Love your enemies.”  Has anyone in the whole history of the world ever said anything more radical than that? I don’t think so.  I don’t think Jesus intended to establish a hierarchical patriarchy, but that seems to be his legacy, and finally, finally, I’ve let it go. Just let it go.  I feel a little sad about it, but it also feels liberating. If I can release that, what else can I let go of?

Richard Rohr (oh, dear, I’m about to paraphrase a Catholic priest) said that it’s not possible to talk about God without metaphors.  So here goes. It came to me recently that God is like a murmuration of starlings.  I’ve seen murmurations in midtown Sacramento at dusk, high above the horizon, between Tower Theater and the freeway.  Hundreds—possibly thousands—of birds, flocked together sweeping across the sky, clutched into a big ball, expanding into a cylinder, stretching into a whip, flinging themselves, shifting, changing, frantically beating their wings, yet moving as a single dancer, amazing and beautiful.

What I’m NOT saying is that God is somewhere outside the murmuration, directing the flight of the birds like a conductor leading an orchestra.  No, the Divine Essence is in each bird and in the air between each bird.  The Divine is the energy that compels the movement of the birds, synchronous and purposeful.  An individual bird may not be able to discern the meaning of its own flight pattern, but each bird trusts the wisdom of the flock.

I believe if an observer could get back far enough to see all of creation—and I’m talking all of it—not like the astronauts on the space station looking down on our planet Earth–no, I’m postulating the existence of some imaginary impossible observer who can see absolutely everything—if that were possible, that viewer would see something resembling a murmuration of starlings.  All of us are unknowingly moving as one, in a harmony we may or may not perceive.

Youtube has lots of short videos of murmurations.  This one is less enhanced than some, and hence a bit surreal.  Check it out.



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