Spring brings birds. Listening and watching a cardinal while waiting for a train I thought about how we (ok, I…) easily understand the song as the result of a decision the bird made to sing, an intentional act on the part of the bird that amounts to projecting sound out into the environment. The sound is an index of the bird’s will; the environment is an audience.

It occurred to me that the song of the bird could just as readily be understood as an action of the environment where its’ will is expressed by sound emitted from the bird – as if the environment elicits the song to satisfy some need of its’ own.

Maybe it’s both. Perhaps will is distributed between participant and environment, and expression is a connective gesture that we have learned to describe and understand as an event which breaks the environment into discriminate parts (imagine a bolt of lightning, an action, and an observer).

I think we tend to see expression, essentially, within a broadcast paradigm where the individual trumps and dominates an otherwise passive environment, where, in truth, the expression is a collaborative effort whose qualities (how we experience them) can be understood to reveal aspects of the persistent interrelations of elements comprising any given moment and place.

When we choose to ‘audience’ ourselves we are limiting our engagement with the present and quite probably slowing our evolving understanding of our experience and our world. When we ritualize the practice of ‘audience’ we are institutionalizing this slowing of knowledge, and quite probably becoming a collective drag on the other elements within our environment, but that may be a topic for another post.