In the past, I’ve written about rats, cats, ants, bees, birds, moles, mules, and my perennial favorite — dogs. I’ve recently learned some fascinating stuff about geese, and I’d like to share it with you.
One October, up in Georgia on Lake Altoona, where Frank and I had fled a hurricane, I chanced to look up over the water as a formation of geese were flying south for the winter.
Their precision flying and grace impressed me greatly. It was one of those “wow’ moments that come to those of us who never fail to find not only beauty, but also one of God’s subtle messages in some natural phenomenon.
When you see geese heading south for the winter, flying along in their V pattern, you may wonder why they always fly in that exact formation. Researchers have discovered that there is a distinct aerodynamic explanation, which the geese seem to understand.
Each time a bird flaps its wings, it creates an updraft that lifts the bird immediately behind. Researchers say that by flying in V formation, the whole flock has at least 71 percent greater flying range than if a bird flew on its own.
Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly returns to the group to take advantage of the aerodynamic lift from the bird immediately in front.
When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back in the formation and lets another bird fly the point. They say that geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to greater speed.
Whenever a goose is wounded by gun shot or becomes ill and falls out of the V, two well geese drop out of formation and go down with the distressed goose to protect him. They stay with the sick or wounded bird until he is either dead or able to fly; then they launch out with him, in formation, to catch up with the original group.
From a philosophical standpoint, we can wonder why churches, communities, families, and workplaces don’t usually exercise such goose-sense. If we stick together, we get considerable uplift from each other. Those who strike out alone in some fit of “I-can-do-this-myself-and -don’t-need- anyone-else” will feel the drag of losing the lift from another person.
Furthermore, when a lead goose gets tired, he has enough sense to rotate back in the formation; whereas, we tend to wear out our leaders and keep the young and energetic potential leaders from having a go at it.
Geese honk to encourage their leader as well as the ones in front of them. Humans honk to express anger or impatience at having been offended by some driver in front of them.
I’d rather be a goose-honker. If we expressed praise and encouragement for each other, how much more efficient and pleasant would be any group to which we belong.
Then there’s that part about the two geese who go down with their comrade in trouble and stay with him until he’s either dead or well. In human society, we tend to shoot our wounded and take little or no time for those who are hurting, i.e. the “walking wounded.”
Now, apply this rarely practiced goose-sense to church, for instance. If people knew that somebody would encourage them, relieve their weariness, and stand by them until death, they would push down the doors trying to get in to become members. The same is true of clubs, community organizations, and all other societal groups. Even weird cults are aware of this principle, and use it to recruit the disaffected.
I doubt seriously that encouragement, comfort, and loyalty will be found in a strip club, yet there will be considerable numbers who will flow through those doors.
Somehow, my thinking shifts from geese to lemmings.
While the deliberate mass suicide of these creatures is myth, on occasion they are pushed to the edge of a cliff by the pressure of more lemmings arriving behind them. Large migrating groups will reach a point overlooking the sea and stop until the forward thrust forces them to jump off the cliff and start swimming. Sometimes the distance is too far, resulting in exhaustion and subsequent death.
Did I lose you here on the lemming analogy to Destin’s proposed strip club?
It references humans who are migrating toward a cliff, seeking something to fill a void, yet finding instead a backward push into self-destruction.
If you know of a gaggle of goose-people who follow a fowl philosophy of fellowship and “bearing one another’s burdens,” consider joining them.
But then there’s always the lemming option.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.