About Biron Biron was written in 1988 when I was 28 and searching for answers that I didn’t even have the questions for. Now in 2011, some 23 years later, I also have developed the answers and questions that help explain what the flying and wings metaphor means to me.
Biron Outline: Biron is a young bird in a flock of birds that has lost the ability to fly. This is a story of how he saw that there was something missing in his life and how he went about rectifying it. With Rethink Perfect in mind, it is a chance to see how Biron was searching for feedback to convert his very basic concept on what his wings were for and how he eventually found a new solution to a problem that only he believed existed.
Biron’s Quest, a Fairy Tale
Nestled at the base of a huge red rock lay a deep red, desert plain, sparsely decorated with clumps of dry grass, gums and trees. Some small water holes were dotted around the rock, otherwise the setting was vast and dry, with only the screeching of birds giving any indication of life. This land was peculiar, however, as there was not a bird to be seen in the sky or perched in any of the trees. All built their nests upon the ground amongst the grass tufts, and they walked on the red sand to their not too distant destinations. This is the story of Biron, just one of many young birds who lived contented in his parents’ nest, until one fateful morning. A layer of mist settled on the plain as the distant sun broke the horizon and glistened on their frost encrusted nests and the surrounding grasses. Biron was playing nearby when out of the blue a question popped into his head that he had never heard before and had no answer for, so he decided to ask his mother.
“Mum, what are our wings for?” he asked innocently, expecting her to satisfy his curiosity immediately. Biron was not quite prepared for his mother’s reaction: she suddenly stopped doing her morning chores and seemed agitated. Impatient, he began to repeat his inquiry.
“Biron, what a silly question”, she swiftly interjected. “We all know what our wings are for and that is that. I didn’t have to ask my parents such a question, and I don’t think you should be worrying us or yourself about such trivial matters.”
In an instant, Biron’s peaceful existence was shattered. He was not satisfied with his mother’s reply, and he wondered why she was so agitated.
Deciding not to pursue the matter any further at this point, he headed towards the creek where he knew he would find his father. Biron knew that his mother had a short temper and he was not about to get his tail feather plucked just because he wanted an unclouded answer. Perhaps his father would be more cooperative, he thought. Biron arrived at a place where a channel separated from the creek to form a large billabong. This was where most of the older male birds gathered. Each one squawked and pecked as though they had something very important to say. It didn’t take Biron very long to find his father, as he had a favorite drinking spot. Biron asked his dad what he thought his wings were for.
“Biron, go on back to the nest”, he scorned, “and don’t you be bothering your mother with such foolish questions.”
This time, Biron was not so surprised by his father’s reaction, but was still despondent and confused. Swiftly, he retreated from the watering hole, and then sluggishly returned to the nest. With head down and mind deep in thought, he wondered how such a simple question could cause his parents to get into such a flap.
His mind began to run in search of an answer and he still wished to know what his wings were really for. Thus began Biron’s quest.
It was a few days later, while taking a leisurely stroll along the stream and basking in the mid-day sun, that Biron saw two lovebirds fawning over each other. “Yuck!!” thought Biron. They came closer with a glazed look in their eyes, confirming their dazed emotional state. Out of desperation, he distracted them from their preoccupation long enough to inquire what they thought wings were for.
“Wings were for shade, eh… to keep the sun off our bodies during the summer!” one answered, as though she had stated the obvious.
“And to keep us warm in the cold winter months” the other reiterated, looking to her for confirmation, as a child would to an adult. “Really, though, it is up to the individual as to what we think wings are for”, she replied.
“Birds are not all the same”, her mate said, backing her up.
“If they were, the world sure would be a boring place to live”, she concluded, chuckling falsely.
He smiled knowingly, and they completed their responses by nodding their heads as though they had counterbalances attached. Biron knew of these uses but he wanted to know if wings had a specialised use, one that was indisputably correct.
He believed that both the birds favored the answer that they had given. By concluding that it was up to the individual to decide, they could avoid their differences. Testing his theory, he asked them for the reasons for what they thought. Suddenly, the conversation became cold and unfriendly. Biron was accused of hijacking the discussion by interrogating them.
“What is the problem?” Biron pleaded innocently. “It’s your attitude”, she replied. “You are just not listening to us”, said the other. “We already told you our opinion and we don’t think that we can add any more.” “You are entitled to believe what you believe, but don’t try to force it down our throats.” They ended their conversation then and there, walking off quickly, talking between themselves, turning back to look at Biron now and then until he was finally out of view. “Birds of a feather”, thought Biron.
Poor Biron, he felt so sad. He did not even have the chance to ask the birds why they thought his parents had been so angry. He guessed that it may have been the same reason that they had been. ‘What was wrong with my attitude?’ he wondered. “Should I just agree or keep silent, even if I do not understand, or believe them to be correct?”
Biron talked to many birds along the stream, asking them about their wings, and about the attitude his parents had to the question. Each time the conversation began pleasantly, but when he asked for their reasons, the same aggressive standoff resulted as had occurred with his parents and the two lovebirds. He heard many answers to his first question, ‘To keep the rain off our heads’, ‘For keeping our balance when running’ and ‘To keep our heads covered while we are sleeping’. Each bird believing their use to be the most important one, but usually completed their answers by saying that it was up to the individual to decide, and that more than one answer was correct.
Biron was still confused. Instead of getting answers, he was gathering more questions. After each conversation, he would be told in various ways to stop looking for a problem that did not exist. He was told that their reasons were private or personal. Biron wanted to know why they thought it was private and how could it be a personal issue, as all birds had wings. He was also told to have more respect and to accept what other birds had to say. Yet he did not think that he was rejecting their answers, he just wanted to know their reasons for them. ‘How can I accept an idea that I did not fully understand or agree with?’ he thought, and ‘How can I respect a bird that expected me to accept an untested idea?’ Biron suspected that they did not have any reasons of their own, and were trying to hide that fact. He did not know why, but he was just as determined to find out the answer to this question, just as he wanted to uncover what his wings were really for.
On one occasion, when Biron was strolling along the stream, he met a wise old, grey-feathered bird. She was tolerant and patient, allowing Biron to ask all his questions and to explain the trouble he seemed to be causing.
“I was once like you and asked myself the same question”, she said. “But I never had the courage to ask any other bird. You see, I was worried what the other birds would say. After all, it was not the type of question a bird would normally ask. It has been accepted by the flock that wings have particular uses, and that is that. Why should a bird question it further, especially if it is going to cause such conflict? Besides, there are so many other issues to be considered in life before wings.”
“Have you ever thought of a use for wings that no other bird talks about?” Biron asked enthusiastically.
“No. But I do remember, when I was a little critter like yourself, my grand pappi telling me something about a thing called ‘flying’. He had heard about it from his grand pappi, but he did not know exactly what it was, only that it was something to do with wings.”
Biron rubbed his bottom beak and wondered what this “flying” could be. He had never heard of it before and wondered if any other bird had. This would be his next question. He thanked the wise, old, grey-feathered bird and departed with a renewed confidence. Biron felt that he had stumbled upon a gold nugget and he was not about to throw it away now. He thought that all the abuse that he had received was worth it, just for the chance to talk to the wise old bird and hear about this flying thing. By this stage, word had got around that Biron was asking weird questions. The birds in the flock did not like any other bird to be overly different from themselves. Biron was certainly acting as though he was. Some of the birds that Biron had spoken to did think that his questions were interesting, but like the grey-feathered bird, did not have the courage to ask any other bird. They did not believe the risk or effort to be worth it, thinking the question would never be answered. Biron was not convinced.
As he continued asking his questions, he began to realise that no bird had any substantial reasoning for what they thought, and none cared enough to find out. He believed that they were all afraid of each other. If the fear is this big, he thought, then maybe the answer is just as big. A thrill shot through his little body. He felt like an intrepid explorer trying to uncover a long lost city. He might become an outcast because of his inquiry, but his hope of finding an answer was increasing with each encounter. This gave him the desire to continue.
A few weeks later, while Biron was taking a stroll up into the hills, he heard a distant rumbling. It slowly became louder until he thought he was going to die. Biron looked up in despair, a saw a shiny silver object quite a distance in the air and directly above him. He had never seen such a thing before and was absolutely terrified. Biron lay on the ground with his wing covering his eyes until the object seemed to pass and the noise diminished. Finally, he got back to his feet just in time to see the object sail off into the distance. “Whew!” he exclaimed in relief. He stood staring at this object that had scared him so. Immediately his inquisitive mind began to ask, ‘What was it?’ ‘How did it get up so high in the sky?’ and ‘Why did it not fall to the ground?’ His first thought was that it looked like a stiff worm with outstretched wings in the middle and rear. He looked down at his wings as he compulsively tried to extend them. He quickly restored them to their normal position, since he had neither the strength nor the agility to hold them out for long. Biron wondered if this was the real use for wings. Perhaps this was the ‘flying’ that the grey-feathered bird had spoken of. He raced back to the valley, to his parents’ nest. “Mum!” he cried, trying to catch his breath and slow down as he approached her.
“Mum, did you see that thing as it went across the sky?”, he asked excitedly. “Yes”, she replied casually. Biron stepped lightly. “Mum, do you know what ‘flying’ is?” “Ah yes”, she answered in a pleasant tone. Biron thought that finally he was getting somewhere. “Flying was something that my mother told me about when I was a little chick no older than yourself. It is a very personal feeling that is very difficult to explain”. Biron was waiting impatiently. “But what is it used for?” “Well, it is not exactly used for any one thing in particular. It is more of a feeling one gets. Now don’t ask me any more questions, you will just have to experience it for yourself some day.” “What do you mean by personal?” Biron asked knowing that he was pushing it. “Look, you will just know when you are flying. Now, don’t ask me any more questions”.
Biron was not impressed. None of that made any sense to him. How would he know when he was ‘flying’ if he did not know what flying was? And why had his mother not mentioned this ‘flying’ before now? He would have liked to continue his conversation with his mother, but he was afraid of the consequences. He began to ask other birds what they thought ‘flying’ might be. He also asked them about the object in the sky and if they thought that it had anything to do with ‘flying’. Most agreed with his mother, saying the topic was not worth pursuing. Some got aggressive, refusing to continue the conversation, reminding him once again of his attitude problem.
Biron concluded that his theory was worth putting to the test. He began to lift his wings as high and for as long as he could, believing that if he practiced enough he would get the strength to hold his wings out for a sufficient time to ‘fly’. Every day he practiced – up, down, up, down. His mother did not know what he was trying to do. Biron tried to explain, but she could not understand what lifting his wings had to do with flying.
“Biron, I told you what flying was and you just haven’t listened”, she scorned.
He continued to practice as often as he could, determined to prove a point as much as he was to fly. He knew that if he failed that he would look a fool. He was prepared to take the risk. Up, down, up, down. All the other birds also wondered what he was trying to achieve. They laughed and jeered at the bird that asked so many unusual questions, and now performed such absurd movements. For weeks he practiced. By now he could hold his wings out long enough to notice a feeling of lightness as the wind blew into his face. He knew then that he was onto something that was more than just a ‘feeling’.
He continued to exercise week after week. His strength continued to increase until one day it happened quite unexpectedly.
While Biron was exercising up in the hills, a gust of wind lifted him up into the air. Biron was in a state of shock as he soared twelve metres. Suddenly, more out of fear than lack of control, he tilted to the left and plummeted back to earth. What a mess. Biron’s feathers were all ruffled, and some were scattered on the ground where he had crashed. He lay under a bush a few metres from the place of impact, his eyes closed, the wind knocked out of him. He did not know if he was badly hurt, but he knew that he had been flying, which helped him forget about his aches and pains.
After a few moments, he was able to get back to his feet. He cautiously brushed his feathers back into place and checked for any major damage. None. He was still in a daze as he swayed down the hill, both from the crash and from the experience of having flown. He told his mother about his encounter with the wind and the ground, but she did not take much interest. No bird seemed to believe or pay any attention to him. They laughed when Biron told them how he had fallen out of the sky, assuring him that even if he did “fly” that it was far too dangerous, as his crash had shown. Biron found it hard to understand their negative attitude. He cautiously resumed his practice, deciding to allow the wind to lift him only a metre or so above the ground. He thought that it would be much safer until he became more skilful. For hours he flapped and glided in the wind.
Finally, more than a week after his first flight and disaster, he allowed the wind to lift him into the sky.
It was a moment that he would never forget for the rest of his life, and would never want to. With just a slight breeze blowing in his face, he took a couple of extended flaps and began a controlled ascent. Taking a deep breath for every flap, he extended his wings even further. Gracefully he rose, until he felt that he was high enough to turn.
He pictured in his mind how he was going to maneuver – it was as though he had always known how. Raising his head and chest, he slowed and then stalled. At the same time Biron dropped his left wing and began to fall to the left. He quickly picked up speed, spread his wings and was soon sailing away with the wind, floating high above the desert plain.
After a few more maneuvers, he began to notice the scenery around him and was elated. There were no words that could have expressed how Biron was feeling at that moment. All of his questions had been answered in an instant, all of his efforts had been justified, and his direction in the future had been specified. Around and around he went, soaring higher and higher, bathing himself in his accomplishment.
Eventually, Biron came back to earth both emotionally and physically, coming to rest on the branch of a tree that overlooked the valley. He thought about his parents and the rest of the birds, believing that they would finally listen to him when they saw him flying. He gathered his breath while he pondered. His fitness needed to improve considerably. Within a short time he had recovered enough to resume flying and decided to fly home and show his mother what he had achieved.
He took to the air, this time with very little thought as though he had been flying all of his life. When he arrived over his parents’ nest, he circled a few times, hoping that his mother would see him. “Mum!” he cried. “Look at me!” She looked all around her, not knowing where Biron’s voice had come from.
“Mu-uuum!!” he shrieked. This time she looked up to see Biron gliding towards her. She ducked and covered her head with her wing, thinking that he was going to hit her. “Hi, mum”, Biron said casually, as though he had just walked in.
“Biron, what were you doing up there?” she barked. “You could have hurt yourself.”
Biron said nothing. He wanted to see if she had noticed that he had actually been flying. But she also said nothing, and they stood there in silence. His mother was too proud to acknowledge that her son had found something that was new and exciting – something that she had not known existed. Finally Biron spoke.
“Well, what do you think”? Biron’s mum stated in a worried tone. “What will the neighbors think?”
“Don’t worry about them mum, this is flying, this is what our wings were really made for”.
“Are you sure? It does not look very safe to me”.
“Yes, I am sure. With a bit of practice, you will be doing somersaults”.
“No, I still think that flying is something else”, she replied. “And I certainly don’t think that I will be travelling through the air like that.”
“But mum …” “No. I know what flying is and that is that! Now don’t start your questions again. I don’t think that I can take any more”.
Biron was dumbfounded.
He could not understand why his mother was acting that way. He thought that he would fly down to the big trees near the stream and surprise his dad. Maybe he would share Biron’s excitement. He took to the air with his hopes slightly dented by his mother’s indifference. Fortunately, the exhilaration he experienced from flying quickly renewed them.
He flew around the billabong a few times, hoping to spot his father amongst the other birds. “Hello down there”, Biron yelled enthusiastically. The birds looked up momentarily, then continued their conversations as though he was not there. “That was strange”, he thought as he descended slowly. He circled the trees in a corkscrew fashion until he reached the ground, stumbling slightly as he landed. Biron walked up to his father, who did not look very excited at all.
“What are you doing, Biron?”, he asked in disbelief. “Why are you playing such foolish games?”
Biron was stunned. Why was his father acting like this, he thought. He noticed that none of the other birds were standing near them. He assumed that it was because of himself and his flying.
“But dad, this isn’t foolishness, it’s flying.” His father’s face looked very serious, an intensity that Biron had never seen before.
“That is not flying, Biron. It’s senseless and dangerous and I don’t want to see you doing it again, do you hear me?”
“But why?” pleaded Biron.
“Because I am your father and I said so!”
Biron gave up, walking away broken hearted. He wanted to be by himself. He knew that his father was wrong and that flying was not foolish, but something that all birds were meant to do. He began to cry, not knowing why any of the other birds did not share his enthusiasm about flying. After all, it was the most exhilarating experience of his life.
“Maybe they did not want to be exhilarated. Maybe they felt comfortable with walking”, he thought. Biron decided that he would only fly when his father was not present. His father had only said that he did not want to see him flying. Biron knew what his dad had meant, but there was nothing that was going to stop him from flying – not even the fear of disobeying his father.
Biron improved his flying skills steadily as the weeks went by. All of the other birds shunned him and his flying crusade. They were not about to admit that he was flying, or that any ideas they had were incorrect. A few birds secretly admired Biron and his flying, but did not want to admit it for fear of being rejected by the other birds. As he grew up, he left his parents’ nest and built his own in a tree. He lived alone, separated from the other birds because of his flying, dropping in occasionally to see his parents. He tried to convert his mother to fly his way, but she was constantly telling him to come back to the ground.
“You will not get another bird to live with you in a nest built in the trees”, she said. Biron always ended up arguing with her, as he wanted to do what he thought was correct. It made no sense to him to build his nest on the ground, as there was more protection in the trees and the views were spectacular. His mother wanted what she thought was best for him, believing that he would never find a mate that wanted to fly, and thought that he was wasting his life looking. Biron knew the type of bird that he was looking for. She would have to admire him for his flying and not be afraid of being rejected by the other birds – her parents included – when she learned to fly. Obviously she would need to fly if she was going to live in the trees. Biron wanted his chicks to learn to fly, and he knew that if their mother did not know how to, that they would be very confused indeed, especially with all of the other birds in the flock grounded. She would also have to be physically attractive to him – after all he was still an animal.
One morning while Biron was out practicing his flying, he spotted what seemed to be a bird in a distant tree. Without hesitation, he darted over to where she was perched.
“Hi, my name is Biron”, he said. “And may I ask how you got into the trees like that?” “My name is Carmel and I flew up here”, she retorted, slightly bemused by his question.
“Wow”, said Biron, “Did you know that you are the first bird I have ever seen up here with me?” “No” she said, surprised. “I come from the large group of rocks over there”, she pointed with her wing. “Most of us fly but a few have chosen to stay on the ground.” “Really?” said Biron, “That’s great. Can I pop over with you to see?” he pleaded. “Sure”, Carmel replied, “let’s go”.
So Biron and Carmel flew over to the far valley, and thus began a new and fantastic phase of Biron’s life.