29 April 2020

the unimportant comes pouncing

During the last two hundred years the blackbird has abandoned the woods to become a city bird. First in Great Britain at the end of the eighteenth century, then several decades later in Paris and the Ruhr valley. Throughout the nineteenth century it conquered the cities of Europe one after the other. It settled in Vienna and Prague around 1900, then spread eastward to Budapest, Belgrade, Istanbul.
From the planet’s viewpoint, the blackbird’s invasion of the human world is certainly more important than the Spanish invasion of South America or the return to Palestine of the Jews. A shift in the relationships among various kinds of creation (fish, birds, humans, plants) is a shift of a higher order than the changes in relations among various groups of the same kind. Whether the Celts or Slavs inhabit Bohemia, whether Romanians or Russians conquer Bessarabia, is more or less the same to the earth. But when the blackbird betrayed nature to follow humans into their artificial, unnatural world, something changed in the organic structure of the planet.
And yet no one dares to interpret the last two centuries as the history of the invasion of man’s cities by the blackbird. All of us are prisoners of a rigid conception of what is important and what is not, and so we fasten our anxious gaze on the important, while from a hiding place behind our backs the unimportant wages its guerrilla war, which will end in surreptitiously changing the world and pouncing on us by surprise.

Milan Kundera (Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 1975)

We always knew what we were doing. We were so arrogant. We just thought we could get away with it.


  1. It all came from the Bible, right?! Having dominion over the Earth and all its creatures, and that kind of thing. People think they're the center of everything, and we even wrote that thinking into our own mythology.

  2. not just blackbirds, raptors and coyotes too. as we have spread across the globe we destroy ecosystems to make room for our concrete, where else are they going to go? we are a very destructive species.

  3. Yes, and we still think we can get away with it.

    Beautiful post.

  4. Food for thought, as we deal with the way our world is tipping further away from what we took for granted.

  5. I hope (beyond hope) that climate scientists and others are studying how the planet is in recovery mode as human activity slows greatly during the pandemic. Will we ever learn? Probably not. The story of the wolves being reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. is a good one, of how removing one single species upset the entire ecosystem but its return is restoring the natural order of things.

  6. The butterfly flaps its wings.