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Why I keep writing: a tale of birds and expression

In a recent conversation, my good friend Joe posed what I believed was a thought-provoking question: “Why do you keep writing?” This interrogation, replete with profound connotations, subtly conveyed his conviction that expending substantial temporal resources on the lamentation of the world’s ostensibly insurmountable predicaments stands as a notably futile pursuit. From his perspective, it becomes manifestly apparent that individuals like me, inclusive of those within the public intellectual sphere, find themselves bereft of the requisite solutions.

Interestingly, Joe does not stand solitary in this particular disposition. In fact, I venture to posit that within the sphere of acquaintances and familial bonds, there exists a cadre of similarly inclined individuals who, when presented with the occasion, might proffer counsel advocating for a more pragmatic use of my precious time. In response to Joe’s benevolently intended inquiry, I proffered a perspective with a quote that, in my estimation, mirrors the sentiments of most writers: “Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs.”

In the tapestry of existence, birds take center stage as nature’s minstrels, singing their songs with a captivating simplicity that echoes profound truths. The saying, “Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs,” encapsulates a timeless wisdom that transcends the avian world, offering a lens through which to contemplate the human experience.

The essence of this point of view lies in the realization that the purpose of song extends beyond conveying information or providing answers to life’s intricate questions. Instead, it speaks to the innate human desire for expression, connection, and the celebration of existence through the medium of music.

At the core of this sentiment is the acknowledgment that birds, unlike humans, do not possess cognitive answers to life’s complexities. They don’t grapple with existential questions or seek solutions to the enigmas that surround them. Yet, when dawn breaks or twilight descends, their melodic tunes fill the air, creating an enchanting symphony that resonates through the natural world.

The act of singing itself is a form of expression—an outpouring of the soul’s intrinsic need to communicate and share emotions. Birds don’t sing to convey specific information or to solve problems; they sing because it is an innate and joyful expression of their being. Like birds, maybe we need to recognize the intrinsic value of expression for its own sake.

Consider the lark, ascending into the sky with its lilting melody, or the nightingale, pouring its heart into the stillness of the night. These feathered choristers don’t sing to instruct, inform, or decipher the mysteries of the universe. Instead, they fill the air with their songs, creating an atmosphere of beauty and grace that transcends the limitations of language.

In the human context, the metaphorical song can take various forms—art, poetry, dance, or any creative expression that emanates from the depths of the soul. We, like the birds, possess an inherent need to share the melodies within us. Our songs may not offer concrete answers, but they bridge the gaps between hearts, forging connections that transcend the boundaries of language and understanding.

Our songs, much like theirs, can uplift spirits, evoke emotions, and bring solace, even in the absence of clear-cut answers, challenging the prevailing notion that every action must serve a utilitarian purpose. In our quest for knowledge and understanding, we often overlook the intrinsic value of beauty, expression, and the sheer joy of being alive. The birds, with their spontaneous melodies, beckon us to embrace the beauty of the present moment and find fulfillment in the act of creation, irrespective of its pragmatic implications.

Let’s for once consider a world where every endeavor is driven solely by the pursuit of answers. It would be a world devoid of art, music, and the myriad expressions that color the human experience. We are encouraged to break free from the shackles of relentless questioning and immerse ourselves in the act of creation—whether it be through art, music, or any form of self-expression.

Consider the great literary works that have shaped the course of human thought. From Shakespearean sonnets to profound philosophical treatises, these writings are not defined by their ability to provide concrete answers. Instead, they stand as timeless expressions of the human condition, offering insights into the complexities of existence and stirring the depths of our emotions.

Taking it a little further, the quote in its metaphorical interpretation extends to the realm of interpersonal relationships. Humans, like birds, often find solace and connection through shared expressions rather than through the exchange of explicit answers. A friend’s comforting words during a difficult time, a partner’s gesture of love, or a shared moment of laughter—all these are akin to the songs that birds share without offering definitive solutions.

In this context, it becomes a poignant reminder of the importance of emotional connection and empathy. Instead of constantly seeking answers from others, perhaps there is greater wisdom in sharing our songs—the unique expressions of our joys, sorrows, and everything in between. Through this exchange, we create a harmonious tapestry of shared experiences, enriching the human journey with the melodies of understanding and compassion.

“Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs” invites us to a profound contemplation on the nature of expression, connection, and the intrinsic value of creation. It urges us to embrace the beauty of our own songs, to recognize the importance of shared expressions in relationships, and to appreciate the cultural richness that arises from the diverse melodies of humanity.

Joe and folks like him should be reminded that as a writer, the endeavor is not solely about presenting solutions on a silver platter but rather about instigating a dialogue, inspiring reflection, and evoking a myriad of emotions. It is the resonance of these emotions, much like the harmonious cadence of birdsong, that creates a lasting impact.

In a world that often demands answers, the most profound wisdom lies in the simple act of singing our own song, irrespective of whether it holds the key to life’s mysteries.

Osmund Agbo is a pulmonary physician.

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