What goes on in a parliament of owls? I don’t know. But this is what I imagine… Owls meet up because they know there is greater collective wisdom. They meet up to learn from one another, knowing that each member has followed a different flight path, and are willing to – no! More than that! – they expect to learn from one another. No question is considered too silly, no experience consigned to ‘the bin of irrelevancy’ – it’s a place to be heard and to listen, and to grow.
I don’t know whether -in the wild – the parliament of owls has one leader -but I imagine it does not. I see it more as a pow-wow type gathering of equals – the owlets having a place (as soon as they are old enough to fly there) just as much as the elderly owls- those perhaps now hard of hearing and thus more vulnerable and in the last golden days – and all the other owls with their various stages of maturity, able to meet together – if not as equals in experience, knowledge or wisdom – at least as fellow owls.
Does each species of owl have its own parliament, or are all species of owl welcome? Again I don’t know. In the wild I suspect that the idiom ‘birds of a feather, flock together’ holds true. In other words, it is more likely that owls of one species gather together- the snowy owl parliament meeting in the frozen tundra, the barn owl parliament further south, the the lovely spectacle owl and its crazy looking offspring meeting in the warm, humid neotropical forests of Mexico. I imagine too that the parliament is often broken down into smaller gatherings, mini parliaments more like gaggles of owls than full parliaments, where small groups of owls gather together for collective wisdom, perhaps on a specific issue. But in times of great crisis is there room for a greater parliament, where representatives across the species gather, I wonder.
In CS Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles (particularly in The Silver Chair) we read of a parliament of owls who met during the night to discuss the state of affairs in Narnia. They met at night, not in a sinister way or to break the laws of Narnia, but because that was the most natural time for them to be awake and alert. Indeed they often lamented that other creatures in Narnia met at ‘unnatural times’ – meaning during the day!
“You see, most of the creatures in Narnia have such unnatural habits. They do things by day, in broad blazing sunlight (ugh!) when everyone ought to be asleep. And, as a result, at night they’re so blind and stupid that you can’t get a word out of them. So we owls have got into the habit of meeting at sensible hours, on our own, when we want to talk about things.” (The Silver Chair)
In the human world we use the term parliament in a somewhat different sense – though the UK parliament in Westminster does often meet late into the night to debate one issue or another – but the origin of the world parliament itself is also interesting. It doesn’t mean to debate, or even to decide, nor does it mean to rule – it simply comes from the old French /Anglo French ‘parler’ which means to talk.
This blog. I write it for me. I have to keep reminding myself of that important truth. But it is about journeying with others. I need a parliament of owls -and other power animals – in which I can listen and be heard. Much of our seeking and sharing of collective wisdom is not done face to face, but on line. And it’s such a gift. There is perhaps (for me) a longing for more seeing/ being seen, of meeting face-to-face, of looking into each others’ eyes and seeing glimpses of our souls, and of sharing space, meals and all that comes with it. Owl post is not the same as a gathering. Nonetheless, I believe that the parliament of owls is a gift given to me by God, and a constant reminder that I – and we – do not journey alone. That ‘minä itse’ is not the way forward, but ‘we together’ is far better.
I need you.