The Bird and the Bastard

I’m walking along a trail and see a bird on a wire.  I cannot see the bird clearly, but what I can see is beautiful, especially its gorgeous blazing orange belly.  I stand in awe…

Then a man appears in a flash of thunder and a smell of bullshit.  He’s wearing mismatched clothes, from a variety of periods, all of which look familiar.  The man himself looks strangely familiar, yet for some reason I don’t want to think about his face or his clothes.

Me: Who are you?

Bastard: I’ve been called many names — Prince of Pain, Molester of Moments, Ruiner of Relaxation, Tormentor of Tranquility and Pisser of Parades.  My official title is Your Mind, but most people call me Bastard.  Trust me, after a few minutes with me, you will too.

Me: And what do you want… ummm Mr. Bastard?

Bastard: So formal!  Bastard is fine.  Trust me, we’ll get to know each other VERY well. As for what I want, it’s to talk to you.  Or rather, talk AT you.

Me: And what do you want to talk about?

Bastard: Just what you’re doing.

Me: Oh, I’m looking at that bird on the wire.

Bastard: Why?

Me: Because it’s beautiful.  Look at the orange belly; I’ve never seen anything like it.

Bastard: It’s just a dove. And that orange belly is a trick of the light.  There, nothing to see.  Now let’s talk about something important.  Remember how last week your friend was 15 minutes late to your meeting?  Don’t you think he was dissing you? I think he was…

Me: Wait, wait, wait.  Can’t we just enjoy the sight?

Bastard: Why? There’s nothing to see.  I already told you, it’s just a dove.  You’ve seen them tons of times. Now that you know what it REALLY is, why bother looking at it?

Me: Well…

Bastard: Are the colors really that bright?

Me: Well, they don’t seem as bright now…

Bastard: So it’s early morning, the light looks different.  Wait a few minutes and you’ll see it for what it is — a stupid, dull bird. And why are you wasting your time with this anyway?  Don’t you have important things to think about? Staring at tricks of the light isn’t what life’s about, is it?

Me: Wait, why should it matter what that bird “really” was? It still looked beautiful. Why can’t I just experience something without wondering what it is?  Why should your commentary about it trump my experience of it? This bird is gorgeous — or was until you ruined it.

Bastard: True, once I start commenting on your experience, it changes.  For that matter, my endless chatter influences what you notice in the first place.  But that’s a good thing — I saved you valuable time.  After all, what will you gain by staring at things you already saw?  ‘Catalog and file away’, that’s what I always say.

Me: You just trumped a real experience for a concept.

Bastard: That’s what I do — you can thank me later.

Me: I hate you.

Bastard: Of course you do.  But do you have the courage to tell me to leave?  To ignore me?  What happens if you ignore me and I say something important?

Me: At what price?  Having to listen to all the unimportant, overblown crap you spew?  To let you destroy perfectly good moments like these? To give up the now for a future “maybe”?

Bastard: There you go with all that “now” nonsense.  I’m not talking about bird watching, I’m talking about the big stuff, LIFE.

Me: Life IS the small stuff. The big stuff is just a story you tell to frame it all. That I’m successful, loved or have a future is just your commentary, and it distracts me from life — walking, wind, sun, birds.  You can’t even let me see something without trying to categorize it.  It’s like you expect me to get permission from you to enjoy an experience by asking you if it’s “real”.  What kind of reality requires ignoring my senses? No wait, don’t answer.  This is just what you want, to get into a debate.  As long as I’m arguing with you, I’m not paying attention to my life.

Bastard: Speaking of which, the light’s changed. That bird looks awfully drab in the full sunlight doesn’t it?  Too bad you were so busy arguing with me that you failed to fully enjoy the sight of your precious bird. It’s funny; you called my bluff, yet I still won. See, you can’t win by fighting me, because the moment you engage me, you already lost.  After all, it’s your attention I want, and whether you’re fighting me or in thrall to me, you’re still giving it to me.  Now, where were we?  Oh yes, I really think we should talk about the way your friend diss–

Me: Go away.

Bastard: Ok.  See you tomorrow.

Me: Bastard.

Bastard: Yes?

Me: No, not you, I mean, yes you, I mean…

Bastard: I get that a lot.  Oh, and you won’t be needing this anymore…

He vanishes with a smile, taking my moment with him.


    • Thank you :). The funny thing is that this was based on a real event. I really did see this beautiful bird, and then ruined the moment by wondering if it really was “just” a dove and a trick of the light. At that moment, I felt the beauty slip away, realized what was happening, and thought I should blog it, as this was a concrete instance of exactly the kind of stuff I’ve been blogging about lately — phenomena and ontology.

      • It’s a perfect example. It’s good that you were awake enough to see what happened as it happened. Most of us let our minds ruin those magical moments without even noticing. 🙂

    • I probably could have left that part out or elaborated. I was trying to portray Bastard as the personification of my personal history, so the mismatched clothes from different eras were to represent the particularly relevant eras in my life.

      • Ah! That makes sense now. See, I was thinking my bastard would look the way I might look if I tried really hard and wore nice clothes. The “put together” Platonic version of me, lording over me the fact that I’ll never get there.

      • Lol! Yes, another very common guise for The Bastard. For me, I imagine this Bastard would be dressed like a stereotypical philosopher, mocking me for not reaching the philosophical insights I think I should, insights that ironically include putting the Bastard in his place 😀

  1. Maybe the trick is learning to accept the Bastard, err, Mind’s insights, but bracketing them while you enjoy the subjective experience.

    It also helps too if you get some satisfaction, as I do, in figuring out optical illusions like that, and then comparing the understood reality to that subjective experience.

    • Absolutely; the issue arises when struggling with the Bastard. I love your mention of Bracketing (Epoche) as it brings back the Pyrrhonist/Phenomenological connection! I also agree that if one enjoys the speculation or studying of how things came to be, then this can be a very enriching experience. It’s only when the enjoyment of experience is derailed by second-guessing (rather than simply studying for the enjoyment of it) that the Mind becomes The Bastard 🙂

      • Definitely when the Mind starts reminding you of slights that might have been, it’s being a Bastard. Mine delights in pointing out that all my past successes *could* have been blind luck, and that when my next endeavor fails, everyone will realize that.

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