I don’t usually run to the paper or the internet for something to write about, but an article showed up this morning that made me laugh, and also made me think, so with your indulgence, I’ll retell the story. Just to be honest and not plagiarize, the story came from the UK Mirror.
It seems that during the quarantine set up and lived out in Great Britain, due to the coronavirus, a number of pets and animals of all sorts ended up in shelters and such, as the owners could not care for them. Apparently, five African grey parrots were adopted by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, located on the east side of England. Lincolnshire is a well-known park, including one of the largest parrot rescue and sanctuary set ups, with over 1000 parrots. That’s a lot of squawking, and Pollys wanting peanuts.
Anyway, as the five parrots lived by themselves in quarantine/isolation, one of the parrots, it seems, had been exposed in its earlier life, and learned a number of what we might call “colorful” words. He began to teach his four comrades the obscenities, which of course grey parrots love to learn and pick up, and then repeat endlessly. It should be said that parrots don’t know what they are saying, but they do respond to the human’s response when they “say” a word. I guess for most of the time, the room they were in had a particular “blue” haze to it. You could almost imagine the parrots encouraging each other: “C’mon, Jimmy! You can let that cuss word fly! Think of all the teenage boys who will be thrilled when they hear you talk this way!”
I guess this is not uncommon. Maybe the people who own parrots simply like to swear a lot, but the CEO of the park said it’s not uncommon for this to happen and that he found it kind of funny when a parrot cusses at someone. However, to set up a small school for the birds to train each other was not quite in the park’s plans. The birds also learned, as humans laughed at them, to laugh at each other when one would offer a particular gem of obscenity or vulgarity.
When the park reopened to visitors, it was reported that it took about 20 minutes after the parrots were placed on display for the public to have reports come in of customers being cussed at by the quintet of stinkers.
Even though no one really got upset – apparently the British are pleased to have obscene birds around them – for fear of what the parrots would do on the upcoming weekend, when children would be coming, the birds, it was reported, were put in an “off-shore” enclosure in hopes that other parrots would teach them how to be more appropriate. The next plan was to put each bird in a separate area so they couldn’t “encourage” each other’s behavior.
There were two problems. Before they re-isolated the birds, indeed, a number of people (read: teenage boys) would swear at the birds to get them to talk dirty back at them. The second larger problem of course is the miscalculation that if you put swearing parrots in an enclosure of non-swearing parrots, the cussers will learn not to cuss any more. That’s kind of like saying if you diagnose someone to be infected with CoVid-19, you should place them in close quarters with a number of healthy people, which of course will make the sick person get better quickly. More likely, it won’t be health that spreads. I can imagine in a few weeks that they will find a number of new recruits to the parrots’ “blue squad!”
I never took up the hobby of cussing. Let me take that back: one day, when I was about 11 years old, for some reason I decided to try out the “d” word, and happened to do so in front of my mother. I did not expect her response. “Stop right there!” she said, “No -no-no! You are NOT going to start cursing! Use your imagination to find other words to express how you feel! To cuss is to be simply lazy, and to not try to be someone of high character!” I remember those words, and even though there may be have been times in the five decades that followed where I might be tempted to flip a word off into the atmosphere, I don’t want to disappoint my mother. Also, even though she is now gone, I never want to hear that lecture again.
The adage, “Birds of a feather flock together” rings true. We indeed are known by the company we keep, and when we involved in lives of excellent report, so too we will want to live up to that standard. At the same time, as we all learned from the story of Pinocchio, when we associate fully with jackasses (truly that animal), then we will more likely become one ourselves.
What is important to you in your life? It wouldn’t bother me at all if I never heard another curse word spoken in this world. That language, and some of the behavior that follows does not bring light to this world, and doesn’t portray intentional lives living to their high potential. How about you? What might others say about you? Would there be words of honor, and class and integrity, or would you be reduced to being laughed at like a group of grey parrots who don’t know any better? Something to regularly think about, as we make intentional choices in our lives.
Word for the day: palaver. puh-LAV-er. The word is Latin, and originally comes from the Latin parabola, which means “speech, or discourse.” However, it’s far more than “How are you? I’m fine.” It really refers to a “long talk,” or “much talk.” It worked its way into that meaning when sailors from Europe would land in West Africa and attempt to make trades with the tribes there. They would all sit in a typical African council meeting, and meet for hours, filling the air with “many” words. They were long talks, and the word, palaver, eventually came to mean talk that is profuse, or even idle. “Yammering” is a good synonym. One of my joys in retirement is that I no longer am bound to be part of meetings in which palavering is the showcase – what I used to say was that some people start talking, and find themselves enamored with the sound of their own voice – they fall in love, and each syllable becomes more adored than the last. Parabola or palaver – we should each be given ejector seats for those meetings…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.