LENS Post #12

By mid-morning the highway flushes red with traffic and then steadily clots to thickness. The movement is a professional tourniquet – lurching forward with each green signal to a tempo only humans respect. In the shadowy hollows of the landscape, within an earshot of the choked rumbling, a creek ripples towards the Broadwater. Quietly unfurling fronds of silt on its curvaceous sides, each deposit manna for the mud puncturing mangroves and millions of creepy-crawlies within. I’m on foot – on the lookout for the exceptionally mediocre. Pigeons – rats of the sky – a plague of them. Roosting, preening, and cooing. Crapping all over their audience. En masse and spooked however they weld and transform. Like they blast off with single intelligence. Changing direction, coiling and uncoiling to evade sharpened claws or whatever – beyond the explanation of algorithms. Most gregarious animals exhibit this murmuration while schooling.

Have you seen a troupe of whitebait in the ocean dance for their predators? Folding in on itself shimmering like a giant ball of quicksilver?

I think about how granular and definitive we can define the world yet out there, on the sidewalk in every town and city, lays phenomena science cannot explain. They are the X-files of reason. The closest the boffins got was the term ‘phase transition’ – the same principle in physics that governs growth and destruction. Basically when we are swarming, you react exactly as I do. Yeah, I’m not sold. How can a collective of a thousand birdbrains decide to change direction in a fraction of a second? How about murmuration in humans? Are we too stubbornly intelligent for an override function? Perhaps our traffic would be the least of our worries. And then I get there – the sight of delicate chaos. The twisting of weightless wills into a tranquilising direction. The sound of the air flattened and plunged, and of silent shrieking beaks. This is what it sounds like when doves cry.