Learning to Soar Again
“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” Carl Sandburg
The majestic Andean Condor is one of the world’s largest flying birds and is considered to be a sacred animal for the Incas. Andean condors can weigh up to 15 kilograms. These birds prefer to live in windy areas, where they can glide on air currents with little effort.
I recently watched a video of a young male condor that had been found badly wounded and starving, with broken wings, in Catamarca, northern Argentina, near the Andes range where they belong. He was taken care of by a Wild Animal Care Foundation, and 6 months later (August 2019) he was ready to be set free again at the spot where he had been found. This was an exciting moment and there were about thirty people on the mountain, from the Foundation and other bird-lovers, who had come to see this huge bird released back into the wild.
As this young bird was gently placed on the mountain ledge, people watched with bated breath, eager to see this majestic bird take to the heavens and the freedom it was born for. But the response wasn’t quite what was expected. The Condor gently flapped its wings and seemed to hesitantly survey the scene, familiarising itself with its environment. It flapped its huge wings a bit more, almost like trying to get a feel again of what they were designed to do. For a full 2 minutes it stood on the edge of the cliff, wings outspread, not moving. Maybe he was soaking in the environment, possible doubting that he could soar like he used to. Had the wings fully healed? Were they strong enough to support this flight? Were the memories of its recent pain and brokenness getting in the way? Above this scene, three or four other condors were gliding the wind currents, almost urging this young male to join them.
After a full 4 minutes, it eventually flapped its wings twice and launched out into the air. Immediately the wind currents caught his wings and he began to soar, to the sound of elated cheers and whoops of joy from the Care Foundation team and other onlookers. At last, after 6 months of rehabilitation, this huge, beautiful bird was restored to a life of freedom, soaring the heights of the Andes mountain air currents. His first flight wasn’t very long, and he soon landed on a nearby rock, but he now knew he was back, and that soaring was his destiny. Watch this scene by clicking on the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8FX_mtY2Ss .
As I reflected on what I had just witnessed, I could see a parallel in the lives of us as ordinary people. Well-known author, Malcolm Gladwell said, “A lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle.” There is not one of us who doesn’t know what struggle, brokenness and pain feels like. Many of us have had wonderful dreams of success and happiness, and yet, just like in the case of the broken young condor, life throws out adversity curveballs in the familiar names of failure, brokenness, pain, disappointment and disillusionment. The dreams of success then seem so far removed from our lives that within no time they are buried deep in our unfulfilled past.
Yet we are born to dream, we are born to soar. P.S. Scott said, “There’s no force in this world greater than the power of a dream.” Take away that desire for a better future and a vision of what could be, and life becomes drudgery and a continual quest for survival. For many of us, dreaming again after setbacks and disappointments can be a bridge too far. We settle for what is, rather than reach for what could be. Its just too hard. Yet I believe we can take some simple lessons from the broken, young condor and we can be able to soar again.
Firstly, brokenness needs a time for healing and restoration. Life is hard enough at the best of times, let alone when we are fragile, weak and confidence is low. Dan Allender said, “The work of restoration cannot begin until a problem is fully faced.”
Secondly, just like the Condor we need a team of healers and restorers, people who believe in us and want the best for us. Jim Rohn said, “My mentor said, ‘Let’s go do it,’ not ‘You go do it.’ How powerful when someone says, ‘Let’s!’” Oprah Winfrey said, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”
Thirdly, learn to desire the dream again. Howard Ikemoto, artist and art professor told this story: “When my daughter was seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, ‘You mean they forget?’” Yes, we do forget to dream too. The pressure of survival every day can push the vision of a better future into a dusty, cobwebbed corner of our minds. Give yourself permission to soar again!
Finally, take action. Do something. Just like that young condor eventually launched itself into the wind currents of the Andes mountains, we need to launch out into unknown territory, where dreams come to life. That is the only way to turn a life of survival into a life of fulfilment and joy. Follow the advice of Michelle Obama who said, “Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right?”
Please feel free to share your thoughts and insights with us about this fascinating topic. If you are interested in talking to a mentor or coach about how you can learn to soar again, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Antony Jennings is Managing Partner of Zifundise Training and Consulting, a people development company based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.