November 25, 2009

About 10:30 this morning I had just checked my e-mail and was getting ready to sit down to work on the lecture I am scheduled to deliver in Ohio next week on the subject of the Filioque controversy — a subject about which the Preacher, the son of David, may have been prophetically thinking when he observed that he who increases knowledge increases sorrow, that of the making of books there is no end, and that much study is a weariness of the flesh. Much other business also urgently awaits my attention: I need to clean up the house and make other preparations in advance of a visit from an aunt and uncle, who are coming down from Boston this Friday to attend my Aunt Becky’s funeral (she died early this past Monday, aged 80, of cancer of the liver; with all the misery and horror of approaching death, she managed to look beautiful even to the end). Anyway, at just about 10:30 a.m. I heard a scuffling noise outside, a great, noisy confabulation, which seemed to be coming from all directions. I looked out the window and saw that the roof and the ground and the bare trees were all covered with crows, like an army of well-trained paratroopers, surveying the territory or moving about in search of food; many of them were scouring the gutters of my house for insects, pulling out the decaying leaves that had collected there and letting them fall to the ground, making easier for me the job I will eventually have to do to clean these gutters out. From the kitchen window, I could see their tails moving directly overhead as they scavenged, while others, on adjacent parts of the roof, looked about, with sharp, no-nonsense eyes and bluish heads: certainly enough to strike terror into the heart of any beetle or ant who should have had the misfortune of being caught out in the open. I was wondering to myself how many they were, and was thinking that there must have been at least a thousand of them; after some minutes, when I sat down and began working on the computer, the birds must have been startled by a noise which I didn’t hear, or by a movement somewhere which I didn’t see, because they all suddenly took off like a great black horde, briefly filling the whole grey sky like a dark, self-propelled cloud; and I could see that my guess of a thousand was a serious underestimate: there may well have been ten thousand of them or more.

And now, as I write this, and look again out the window, they seem to be returning, perhaps flattered at having received all this attention. I had better get to work on more serious things.

11 Responses to “Crows”

  1. J Blood Says:

    Peter, I’m sorry to hear about your aunt. My best to your Aunt Mitzi and Uncle George (if in fact they are the family from Boston you mention.)

    Should you have time after your current busy-ness abates, I recommend “Bird Brains” by Candace Savage, on the intelligence of the corvid family.

  2. bekkos Says:


    When I get a bit of time, I will try to locate the Candace Savage book you recommend. (Currently, the busy-ness is unabated, and I have much work still to do if I am not to appear a complete blathering idiot in Ohio next weekend. Of course, some readers of this blog might say that that would be a more honest self-presentation….)

    I happened to be reading the Gospel of St. Luke this morning, chapter 12, and in it found Jesus giving an injunction to “consider the crows,” κατανοήσατε τοὺς κόρακες. They don’t sow, they don’t reap, they have no barns or refrigerators in which to store their food, and yet God feeds them. How much better, he says, are you than these birds? The point being, there are more important things to worry about than where you are going to find your next meal. Of course, one might argue, God gives these birds a healthy appetite, he gives them wings to move around with and dark plumage to scare smaller birds with and a good strong beak with which to tear apart all kinds of edible substances; in my own case, he does not give me dark plumage or a good strong beak, but he gives me a mind, hands, and feet, and, arguably, I ought to use these things to make a living, something which I am not now doing. But perhaps that is not quite the inference Jesus wants me to draw. It seems, rather, that Jesus’ point is that, as God cares for the crows, so he also cares for me and you, and even more so. So seek the kingdom of God, and stop worrying.


  3. Veritas Says:


    Do you know if, in some fashion, you will be posting the content of your lecture here on the blog?


  4. J Blood Says:

    I have no insight to offer about the theology, but I think it’s nice that in addition to the better-known, pale, sweet-smelling lilies of the field we are also asked to consider the scrappy, mischevious crow (although isn’t κοραξ usually translated as raven?)

  5. bekkos Says:


    According to S. C. Woodhouse’s English-Greek Dictionary, the equivalent of the English word “crow” is κόραξ. To my understanding, a crow is a small raven.

    Also, the word ταμεῖον would be more accurately translated as “storehouse,” rather than “refrigerator”; but, given the fact that most of us store our food in refrigerators these days, I thought it was culturally appropriate. Translator’s license; this is a blog, you get what you pay for.


    I’ll probably post the lecture here on the blog in some fashion, but my first priority at present is to finish the thing, and do a decent job on it.


  6. Veritas Says:


    Good to hear; I’m sure you’ll do great. I only wish I could attend; but, alas, the American Southwest is not in the approximate vicinity.


  7. Mary Says:

    One time, long time ago, I was walking in an oak grove and I came upon a crow and two large whole slices of good old gummy white bread. The white bread slices were separated by about 8 to 10 feet when I arrived. The crow picked up one of the slices and started to fly off, then paused, dropped the slice and went to the other one, picked it up and started to fly off, but stopped and dropped that second one. Then she sat, and sat and I stood riveted watching.

    Long story short, the crow eventually chose one of the slices to move to the second location. Both slices lay side by side now, and again she sat, and sat and I stood riveted watching.

    Then she edged one slice on top of the other but the top slice was canted and sliding off to one side. She tried to pick them up together but one fell out of her mouth.

    Long story shorter, eventually that crow lined up the two slices of bread, picked them both up in her beak and flew away.

    And then I sat and sat there staring. Heaven only knows, I may still be sitting there yet.

    Thank you for all the good work you are doing here at this site.


  8. Mary Lanser Says:

    Was my post offensive Dr. Gilbert?


  9. Mary Lanser Says:

    Sorry to bother you again but I had hoped to make contact with you since we have certain overlapping interests in life, but your wordless dismissal of my little parallel raven story leaves me wondering if perhaps you are too busy. If that is the case then I will not try to contact you. Please do be kind enough to let me know how to proceed. I am older than you and perhaps a bit wiser, so don’t worry about offending.


  10. bekkos Says:

    Dear Mary,

    There was no offense at all; I simply happen to be away from home, and was unable to check my e-mail, or the internet, for the past two days. The blog is set up in such a way that I have to approve comments from those who post comments for the first time (and, evidently, also from those who haven’t posted comments for a long time). I apologize for the misunderstanding this caused.

    I would have stood watching the crow with the bread slices, too.


  11. Mary Lanser Says:

    I had hoped that you were the sort that would have also been transfixed by the crows. I saw my note disappear and thought perhaps I’d slipped through the wrong looking glass!!

    But here they all are lined up in a row like birds on a wire.

    Nice to meet you, Peter.


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