I express gratitude to the Catholic blogworld's favourite Archdruid for bringing the lonely life and death of Nigel the Gannet to my attention. Reading the Guardian is something that has completely slipped off my radar here in Romania. My take on the poor bird's plight however is somewhat different.
In case you need enlightening, scientists were trying to lure a gannet population to a particular remote island by using concrete replicas and solarpowered sound recordings of real gannets. Poor Nigel was the only real bird who turned up. Poor Nigel tried to befriend the concrete birds and when finally some other real gannets turned up, he died.
The thing is, I think the human end of the spiritual life is very like Nigel's sad life. We all desire love, real love and we give of what we have and the response we get is just like that off the concrete gannets. We get nothing back, but we keep on trying. Something makes us try even harder, but the concrete wins every time.
I find myself slightly more fortunate than Nigel. I have found some other real gannets and the shock hasn't killed me. There are more here in Romania than I have known elsewhere.
How do you spot a real gannet?
Well, you must be a giver and prepared to give to the concrete. You must assume every bird you meet is not made of concrete. Your first glance must be made with that assumption. You will never see it if you don't see it with the first eye contact. It is always a surprise and is always brings joy. I have seen it in old men on the Metro, and the young shabby Orthodox priests who loiter on the streets like tramps in cassocks, I saw it in the eyes of a religious sister at Candlemas last night, I've seen it in the eyes of the young children out shopping with their mums. The glance becomes a smile and the smile is playful. And most of the time that is where you leave it; happy in the knowledge that there are other gannets doing their thing, battling as you are battling, being gannety in a world of pastiche gannetry.
Very occasionally it goes further and you strike up a conversation. Even rarer still, you find a gannet who you can call a friend, one whose life is inexorably linked to your own, one who helps make you the gannet you are meant to be.....
It can of course go the other way. You can become concrete. You can embrace the pastiche gannetry, pose like the concrete birds, adopt their mannerisms, block the truth from your life but be happy and comfortable in your safe concrete world. The solarpowerd recordings of real gannets are the only reality you need. View and listen to life through the digitally recorded world and make-believe it is real. You can become convincingly concrete and you no longer even desire the company of real gannets. The concrete birds can be really charming, sweet and even appear "affectionate", it is easier than you think to become concrete and become unable to tell concrete from the real thing.
There are also some very sad real gannets, they return the glance with a
"leave me alone, I can't do this, I can't stay real much longer"... they look at you almost accusingly, as if you cause them pain. Sadly you must avert your gaze and leave them be.