Owls.

Those funny birds that look like they can swivel their head on an axle 360°. Symbols of wisdom and wonder. Think of every owl character you know. Archimedes, Owl from Winnie the Pooh, and that one owl from the Tootsie Pops commercial with no self-control. I mean hell, even that writing reference center from Purdue is called the “OWL.” They lie in this odd space in our minds where the classic know-it-all archetype thrives.  They bestow upon us undue wisdom whenever we don’t want to hear it. Hence, we tend to convert this into a comedic effect. We don’t want to learn, so we make fun. Classic. “Lol. Owl knows things that I don’t.” But what’s funny about that, is that it isn’t. At that point we realize our own ignorance and take heed of the lesson. That kind of nervous laughter feel, where we internalize our own insecurities and realize just how short we fall from the bar above us, look up at the tree branch, and guess who is there…The Owl.

Wonderful. Literally. Full of wonder. Their skills, their features, and apparently, their endless wisdom. If you research far enough, you’ll see these origins of wisdom and wonder are plastered all over the history books, from Greek Mythology to Native Folklore around the globe. Which makes me wonder, why? Not ‘why’ because of history, but ‘why’ because of the owl itself.

What is it about this bird, 

that inspires us to yearn for knowledge and wisdom?


Why do we trust this feathered phenomenon, 

among all the others, to guide us into the unknown?

To answer these questions, it would be prudent to analyze the unique characteristics of the owl that simultaneously perplexes and amazes.

 

Flight:

First and foremost, the owl can fly. And I don’t know about you, but I wish I could too. I take planes every chance I can get despite my wallet’s tears. I listen to R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” and spread my arms out as if I’m soaring, like he does in the music video. I yell at annoying birds, but deep down I know I’m just being mean because I’m jealous they can fly and I can’t.

But not only do they have the ability of flight, they fly silently. ¡IIIIIImaginate! Flight. Without sound. You wouldn’t need $300 noise canceling headphones on your layover flight to Atlanta to block out the crying babies and that pilot who gives one too many “updates.”

 

Nocturnal, Superior Hunters

If owls were an NBA player, they would be Kawaii Leonard; silent but killer. They are the avian all-stars of night. Ballin’ on all the prey who dare take them on 1-on-1, crossing them up and finishing with a good hearty meal at the rim.

They have night vision;

Everything is seen, far away and in close range, probably better than the scope on your rifle.

They have silent flight;

By the time their prey realizes they are in danger, it’s too late.

Kawaii Leon-Owl done got you homie.

They have super-hearing;

Per the scientists Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye at Stanford, “Owls…are able to locate even faint sounds with remarkable accuracy…Once a sound is detected, the owl orients toward it and accurately pinpoints its location to within 1.5 degrees in both horizontal and vertical planes.” That’s pinpoint accuracy from deep. Good luck guarding that.

They are brilliant territorial tacticians;

Memorizing their landscape and ascertaining the most advantageous spots on the floor to pull up and knock down the easy kill.

So back up. They have the silent-kill, night-vision, super-hearing, and they’re smart.

Yeah…that’s what I thought.  You wouldn’t want to go up against a Kawaii Leon-Owl either.

 

The Creepy Awesome Neck Thing:

So, there you have it.

Fascinating details for sure, but not exactly what we’re looking for. But wait, what do these incredible creatures even look like without all the feathers and fluff?!

Oh, that’s right…

owls-without-feathers-17

 

U-G-L-Y.

Ugly.

The first time I saw this, I thought it was some kind of alien chicken. I’m consciously biased about my opinion here, but it still creeps me out. I’m afraid if I stare too long I’ll get nightmares. Impressive nonetheless though, how something that looks so awesome on the outside, can be so ugly within…

But maybe the Owl knows this. Maybe we do too. Maybe we all live with the fact that no matter how beautiful we may seem on the outside; we know we are ugly within. Somewhere in the back of our minds, we look up to the Owl and realize that we’re just a combination of tissues, fats, water, and bones. Yes, some of us may be superior athletes, successful politicians, or renowned scientists. But when we pluck out all the feathers, shave off the fluff, we all bear the same ugliness—humanity.

The wisdom of humility is too far removed for how closely it binds us. That is why, when we look to the Owl, we gain what we actually long for. Not infinite knowledge or prophesizing guidance, but the wisdom to remember that despite our greatest achievements, we’re still only human.

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