The Bird Clouds

We supposed at first that the mental unity of these little avians was telepathic, but in fact it was not. It was based on the unity of a complex electromagnetic field, in fact on "radio" waves permeating the whole group. Radio, transmitted and received by every individual organism, corresponded to the chemical nerve current which maintains the unity of the human nervous system. Each brain reverberated with the ethereal rhythms of its environment; and each contributed its own peculiar theme to the complex pattern of the whole. So long as the flock was within a volume of about a cubic mile, the individuals were mentally unified, each serving as a specialized center in the common "brain." But if some were separated from the flock, as sometimes happened in stormy weather, they lost mental contact and became separate minds of very low order. In fact each degenerated for the time being into a very simple instinctive animal or a system of reflexes, set wholly for the task of restoring contact with the flock.


Probing as best we could beyond the formal similarity of spirit which gave us access to the bird-clouds, we discovered painfully how to see with a million eyes at once, how to feel the texture of the atmosphere with a million wings. We learned to interpret the composite percepts of mud-flats and marshes and great agricultural regions, irrigated twice daily by the tide. We admired the great tide-driven turbines and the system of electric transport of freight. We discovered that the forests of high concrete poles or minarets, and platforms on stilts, which stood in the shallowest of the tidal areas, were nurseries where the young were tended till they could fly.


Little by little we learned to understand something of the alien thought of these strange beings, which was in its detailed texture so different from our own, yet in general pattern and significance so similar. Time presses, and I must not try even to sketch the immense complexity of the most developed of these worlds. So much else has still to be told. I will say only that, since the individuality of these bird-clouds was more precarious than human individuality, it was apt to be better understood and more justly valued. The constant danger of the bird-clouds was physical and mental disintegration. Consequently the ideal of the coherent self was very prominent in all their cultures. On the other hand, the danger that the self of the bird-cloud would be psychically invaded and violated by its neighbors, much as one radio station may interfere with another, forced these beings to guard more carefully than ourselves against the temptations of the herd, against drowning the individual cloud's self in the mob of clouds. But again, just because this danger was effectively guarded against, the ideal of the world-wide community developed without any life-and-death struggle with mystical tribalism, such as we know too well. Instead the struggle was simply between individualism and the twin ideals of the world-community and the world-mind.


Folksonomies: otherness alien other

/pets/birds (0.486100)
/society/racism (0.478062)
/society (0.471977)

complex electromagnetic field (0.960662 (neutral:0.000000)), simple instinctive animal (0.937356 (negative:-0.391791)), high concrete poles (0.905587 (neutral:0.000000)), great tide-driven turbines (0.902723 (positive:0.774520)), little avians (0.771218 (neutral:0.000000)), Bird Clouds (0.769081 (neutral:0.000000)), mental unity (0.760370 (neutral:0.000000)), chemical nerve (0.757039 (negative:-0.532217)), individual organism (0.749792 (neutral:0.000000)), peculiar theme (0.746340 (neutral:0.000000)), composite percepts (0.744508 (neutral:0.000000)), stormy weather (0.742911 (negative:-0.596799)), cubic mile (0.742145 (neutral:0.000000)), ethereal rhythms (0.741205 (neutral:0.000000)), low order (0.734679 (negative:-0.730644)), constant danger (0.733438 (negative:-0.721372)), life-and-death struggle (0.732907 (neutral:0.000000)), formal similarity (0.730297 (positive:0.648154)), separate minds (0.729673 (negative:-0.730644)), human individuality (0.729470 (negative:-0.386760)), immense complexity (0.727301 (neutral:0.000000)), tidal areas (0.725440 (neutral:0.000000)), electric transport (0.724037 (positive:0.774520)), complex pattern (0.722742 (neutral:0.000000)), mental contact (0.720991 (negative:-0.730644)), strange beings (0.720605 (negative:-0.648290)), mystical tribalism (0.710631 (neutral:0.000000)), radio station (0.710221 (negative:-0.672445)), coherent self (0.709497 (neutral:0.000000)), world-wide community (0.708915 (neutral:0.000000))

nervous system:FieldTerminology (0.870614 (negative:-0.049830)), coherent:OperatingSystem (0.509864 (neutral:0.000000))

Nervous system (0.967060): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Individualism (0.853819): dbpedia | freebase
Individual (0.843473): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Psychology (0.733571): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mind (0.718885): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Radio (0.688708): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Neuron (0.661315): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Brain (0.634850): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Nerve (0.631150): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Central nervous system (0.589261): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Axon (0.566783): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Bird (0.539400): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Star Maker
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Stapledon, Olaf (1937), Star Maker, Retrieved on 2017-03-10
Folksonomies: speculation science fiction