Friday, November 5, 2010

The Case for Mythical Ostriches

One of the great misconceptions of our time is that ostriches bury their heads in the sand. This is quite untrue, contrary to what we’ve been led to believe. This myth has been promulgated by way of the figure of speech it inspired. (Or did the figure of speech inspire the myth? We’ll put this one on hold until there’s consensus on the chicken-egg causality dilemma.)

Nevertheless, I think we ought to keep at least one mythical ostrich on the farm who will perform this head-burying act from time to time in order to keep the figure of speech alive and well. (Its mythical nature, of course, would allow us to happily forgo whatever chores are involved with keeping ostriches. I for one am quite content to avoid vacuuming sand and grit from its body every morning.)

Having said that, however, I think there’s room to redefine what burying one’s head in the sand is supposed to mean. We currently understand it to signify someone hiding from ‘the world’, or from ‘reality’. In light of an ostrich’s natural tendency to attack you if you watch it while it’s eating, it seems odd that it would choose to hide from the world, as if it had Avoidant Personality Disorder. Heck, I’ve even read about an ostrich attacking a bus full of tourists by clinging to the side and smashing the windows apart with its beak. These birds take shit from nobody.

Therefore, it seems there should be other possibilities.

As ugly-tempered as they are, perhaps ostriches have religion. Yes, this sounds outlandish, but many believe that elephants are religious, or at least spiritual and altruistic, as evidenced by their ritual of burying their dead, or even the dead of other species, including humans. (In that regard, elephants are religious but non-denominational.) Why can’t birds be capable of such traits?

Now consider that when our mythical (and theoretically-religious) ostrich buries his or her head in the sand, perhaps they’re not hiding from the world, they’re praying for it.