Last night we watched a documentary titled The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, one of our Netflix finds. It is the story of a man named Mark Bittner who had begun living homeless decades before. When the film begins, he is occupying an old apartment rent-free, and has become known for his close relationship with a raucous flock of wild Amazon parrots that nests nearbye.
But the interest of the film isn't confined to parrots. It records how observing and giving care lead to love. Mark imagines the former lives of these tropical birds, what they went through as they were trapped and shipped here. He has given the parrots in the flock names like Connor, Picasso, Olive, and recognizes them, and they sit on his head and arms.
At the same time as his interest in these birds grew, and he became committed to feeding them, the vocation he's been hoping to find all his life comes clear - he is the only person studying this these birds, which are very difficult to study in their native rain forest. So there comes to be a market for his articles and photos. By the time he tells us movingly of the death of Tupelo, a sick and damaged bird he kept inside and fed through a syringe, we have come to see his spiritual depth and breadth, and we have become more and more fond of him.
I have been thinking about how love can be taught. I don't think telling ourselves - or anyone else - that we should love makes it happen. Probably the best thing is example. This quiet film (no special digital effects) about an unambitious person presents an example of caring action, and how this grows into love and transforms a life.
[photo: "We are gathered," Mark Bittner]