On the speed of thought

I’ve been outsmarted by a pigeon, in the wee hours of this night. Rather, by two pigeons, of a single mind. They have decided to interpret an article of furniture briefly parked on the balconata (up here in the High Doganate) as a dovecote. They are trying to nest behind and under. While I appreciate that they are ardent young lovers, I find their cooing disruptive. In the daytime, I menaced them with a broom. They fled in panic: right through a small squadron of indifferent sparrows.

Now, any self-respecting sparrow can out-manoeuvre a waving broom, and he knows it. Whereas, a pigeon isn’t sure. Moreover, sparrows are pert little creatures, wise for their size, and I find they have generally thought through their responses in advance. In ground-feeding, for instance, a sparrow has no difficulty stealing a pigeon’s crumb. He takes the pigeon for a big fat cumbersome oaf, and knows he won’t retaliate. Indeed: that is one of the things I find most Christian in pigeons, or “rock doves” as they’d prefer to be called. Too, I might credit them with a kind of idiot fortitude.

A pigeon might strike one as a slow thinker, a sparrow as a quick one. This is the reverse of true, and itself an example of contemptibly quick thinking. Sparrows are outwardly sharp and bright, but take their sceptical time on all questions of policy. Whereas, a pigeon will quickly settle on a stupid idea, then stick to it come what may. In this respect, it is a liberal bird. The idea of nesting on an inhabited balcony was an especially stupid one. By now the young couple has been twenty times whisked away. But they keep coming back, having selected an utterly indefensible poke hole.

However, one of them — the female, I suspect — has conservative tendencies. She has reasoned that I am less likely to come out with the broom if she just shuts up. This night, I discover that she has pushed her nest to the place farthest from broom-reach; and that her man has been told to do all the panicking for her. She remains silently incubating her eggs, as he alone flees in a great commotion — circling back to the other end of the balcony to make another commotion as I again drive him off. Surely, it was the female who thought this tactic through.

For the female is the slower thinker, in most species. That is why each is able to reproduce. The males think faster, and are thus prone to error. The female, though physically weaker, manipulates for his own good.

In human society, under current social conditions, the females are thinking quicker and quicker. It is an issue that was taken up some years ago by my poet friend, Robert Eady, in his disquisition, “On the maximum speed of women.” I notice they now make the sort of perpetually adolescent, repetitive mistakes in which the males used to specialize — acting on those ideas which “seemed good at the time.”

Indeed, I was awakened by a pack of female juvenile delinquents (human), cavorting in the street below. Though I was rewarded with a glorious view of the Flower Moon, at the full. And offered this latest contest with my pigeon squatters.

“You think too fast,” is among the more tedious criticisms with which I afflict my most liberal acquaintance. They are so clever, and they always get it wrong. They belong on television, where the quality of thought doesn’t matter, but the speed of it is vital. None, it seems, can be taught the Iron Law of Paradox which, among its many corollaries, holds that “if it feels good, you should hesitate to do it.”

We’ll see if my pigeons can learn this in the morning.