The Coherence of Pigeons

From a bygone corridor of 2013, excerpted from a letter to S. The Goddess of Twine & Doing Things Slowly

Coherence. The word has been repeating itself in my head the past several days. A word fashioned like a slender brass key. Capable of unlocking life’s secrets. From Merriam Webster, [isn’t that a beautiful name? Merriam, whose last name is Webster. If she were a person would she be bookish? A librarian? With a hair bun, wire rimmed spectacles and a beautifully modulated speaking voice?] from Merriam Webster comes this definition of coherence : the quality or state of cohering: as a : systematic or logical connection or consistency b : integration of diverse elements, relationships, or values. 

Oh to possess that state! That quality of integration. To be able to hold out your palm like a sorceress and draw in the desperately disparate aspects of a life, to weld and wield that energy like a laser. Directable light. To make meaning out of chaos. To weave cogency and plot out of the potency of a Jackson Pollock. To be able to toss your days like ingredients– bizarre, beautiful, stellar and unsavory– into life’s cauldron and like Macbeth’s weird witches, conjure up philosophy as invincible as any potion in a fairytale. An explanation of why you are here and what you are doing and how it matters. That is what we are looking for. Not the dollar store variety of happiness. Which is too plastic and mass produced a word. Too Made in China. However.

Most everyone still wants to be happy– or thinks they do. Everyone is madly mistaken. What we really want is not a happy life but a coherent one. One whose every part is in sync with the rest, is integrated, involved, intelligible. One whose every part knows its place. 

We make the tragic mistake of thinking this kind of knowing is at the same level as knowing the capitals of all the countries in the world. We memorize our names, our addresses, and the anthems of our alma maters. We plot out neatly, for forgettable strangers, at equally forgettable parties, the timeline of our lives. Leaving out everything that is of any real significance. We mistake the superficial and boring chronology of our lives for coherence. We use our resumes like alibis. Look! I was here! And then there! I did this! And then that! We are only dimly and occasionally aware (usually at unusual hours of the night) that we do not quite remember what we are trying so desperately to prove. Or to whom.

Perhaps this is what makes some people uncomfortable around pigeons. Pigeons will cock their beautiful heads to one side, and with bright orange halos around their black eyes, look directly into your soul. They will not pretend to be impressed by your bio-data. Name-dropping goes nowhere with them, and inserting casual hints of your upward mobility into the conversation is ill-advised. No person is more upwardly mobile than a pigeon. Also, they are not interested in your native place. Their curiosity tends in other directions.

For instance, in a world where pigeons are generally denounced for making a mess of things, [Look who’s talking! They might cry– if pigeons were as petty or argumentative as people,] they would like to know if you can perch on a window sill and observe life as they do (with no words, just plenty of billing and cooing). They would like to know if you like the refracted rainbows dancing in their necks and whether you will stick out yours for them. But most of all, what they would like to know is– have brought any breadcrumbs with you. Or anything really, to help nourish and sustain the lives that flutter alongside yours.

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