Wednesday, February 4, 2009

To Fly or to Die

Yes, sometimes it's actually that stark,
the choice between maintaining the power of
flight or perishing with the weight of gravity
pressing down on your useless wings,
as we can learn from the story of
the feathered but flightless dodo bird.

The dodo evolved from a normal flying pigeon
and settled into flightlessness because
it encountered no natural predators
after it had flown across the Indian Ocean and
taken up residence on the island of Mauritius,
which is found off the east coast of Africa.

Dodos tended to become overweight,
with adult birds eventually tipping
the scales at around 50 pounds.

In spite of that, dodos were doing pretty
well until some unnatural predators in
the form of dogs, pigs, and cats eventually
arrived in the company of the Portuguese
and Dutch sailors who reached Mauritius
for the first time in the 16th and 17th centuries.

No chance then to fly away to live another day!
Instead, with its limited locomotion and its
offspring vulnerable in nests on the ground,
the dodo's eventual doom was sealed.

Not even its inclusion in Lewis Carroll's
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
could bring the dodo back to life,
but the bones of the birds are still
being discovered and studied,
so that, although the dodo is extinct,
we know more about it today than
at any other time in history.

Unfortunately, that's not much of a
consolation prize when you've lost
the battle to survive. If I'd been
a dodo, I'd rather that my lineage
remain alive, and my choice would
have been not to die but to embrace
the Antigravitational solution,
which is to fly, yes, to fly.

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