One of the greatest symbols of freedom in the world is a bird on the wing. He has no restraints, he owns the sky – not even gravity can keep him down. The bird can go where he wishes, when he wishes, and no one can stop him. He has a freedom of movement far beyond our own, and it’s little wonder that his wings have become a symbol of unrestricted liberty. All of which inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd to sing that he was “free like a bird” when he left the girl who loved him, because he “must be travelling on now”. Sorry girl, but “this bird you cannot change”.
Which makes me think that Lynyrd Skynyrd was no bird watcher. If he had been, he might have done things differently.
A few years ago we had the opportunity to watch two blue tits take up residence in a bird house outside our kitchen window. Every day we saw them coming and going, going and coming, coming and constantly going. They certainly made good use of their wings! And every time they came back, they had more bits of straw and grass and twigs for their nest. Then, after the nest was finished, one of the birds stopped coming out. Instead, she sat for weeks inside the birdhouse on her eggs. Meanwhile, Dad was doing double-time: he was running for food constantly, in and out, out and in, feeding both himself and herself, bringing a steady stream of worms and grubs and such. When the babies hatched, it was an even more hectic schedule, Mum and Dad both searching for food for their little family. Finally (and we had the joy of seeing it happen), the little ones took to their own wings, and flew out to build their own nests. Yes, it was a wonder to see them soaring through the sky, to imagine what it must be like to have so few restraints. The bird is free. And where does he go with all his freedom? He goes to get food for his family.
If Lynyrd Skynyrd had been a bird watcher, he would have known that birds don’t use their freedom to run away from the ones they love. If he really wanted to be “free like a bird”, he should have used his liberty to help others, to provide for their needs, and give the best of his strength so that they could flourish. Instead of running away from the girl who loved him, he would have run towards her. If he had looked more closely at the birds he claimed to imitate, he would have seen that real “free birds” are not isolated wanderers who refuse to tie themselves down to anything or anyone. Real “free birds” know that their freedom is not an end in itself. It is meant to be used. It is meant to be spent. It is meant to be freely given.