The Genius of Geese

by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff

“Don’t be a silly goose!” Have you ever heard that saying? When I was growing up, I remember hearing it all the time. It was a cute way of saying you were acting foolish and needed to stop that behavior and get the job done! However, if you know anything about geese, you might realize geese are anything but silly, and they certainly know how to get the job done in an efficient, compassionate, and caring fashion. We could all benefit from being a little more like a goose.

Most of us have looked up in the sky and seen geese flying in a “V” formation, but do you know why they do this? Here is what science has discovered about these clever birds.

  1. When geese fly together in their “V” formations, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it. Therefore, when they fly in this formation the whole flock can fly about 71% farther than if each bird flew on its own.
  2. When a goose drops out of the “V” formation, it quickly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone and swiftly returns to the formation to take advantage of the lifting power from the bird immediately in front.
  3. Geese rotate leadership because the lead goose must expend the most energy as it is the first to break up the flow of air that provides the additional lift for all of the others who follow behind. When the lead goose gets tired, it moves to the rear where there is the lightest resistance, and another goose moves into the leadership position.
  4. Geese honk at each other as their way of communicating during a long flight. Some scientists speculate it might also be their way of encouraging those in the front to keep up their speed.
  5. Geese help each other. When a goose gets sick, is shot, or injured and needs to fall out of the formation, two other geese will fall out as well and remain with the weakened goose. They stay with the injured goose to protect it from predators until the goose is able to fly again or until it dies. They then launch out on their own or find another formation to fly with until they catch up with their original group.

Geese sound like pretty sensible creatures, and certainly we can learn a thing or two from them. For example, they know that working together makes sense. When they do, they benefit immensely from the support. Human beings often have a silly attitude toward working together because they are competitive and divisive. But, if we realized the benefit of working together and how sharing a common purpose and goal could lift us all, we would put away our silly ways and rally around our collective strength. This is true from the perspective of A Course in Miracles when it says…

Our function is to work together, because apart from each other we cannot function at all. The whole power of God’s Son lies in all of us, but not in any of us alone. (T-8.VI.8)

We have no idea of the power we would experience to truly transform the pain and suffering in our lives and the world, if we worked together with all humanity for healing and equality. We could literally mow down mountains of hate and separation, and find our real power and beauty as a society.

Geese understand that going it alone is hard and not worth it. They may temporarily try to go it alone, but when they experience the extra effort and energy it takes to pursue a separate flight, they quickly return to the flock. Human beings (especially now in our country) have a strange idea that we can go it alone, that we are independent from other countries. But when disaster happens to one part of our planet, the catastrophic effects are experienced globally, for example through air and water dissemination. Similarly, when countries join together for scientific exploration or climate crisis research or working on ways to feed the hungry and tackle clean water issues, we can make giant strides, because we are stronger together.

The idea of geese rotating leadership is an important point to understand. It is not weakness to step back and let others step forward to offer their strength; it is the only way we can survive and prosper. In the Course we read over and over again that the ego is afraid of release and freedom, and wants to keep us locked into a feeling of fear, hate, and suspicion of each other. But when we practice the golden rule that what we do to another we do to ourselves — when we recognize that giving is receiving — we will defeat the ego’s message of separate interests because we will understand that there is no such thing as separate interests. As the Course so powerfully puts it, whatever you project onto another, you will keep. Do you want to suffer, or do you want happiness and healing?

It is impossible to offer what you do not want without this penalty. The cost of giving is receiving. Either it is a penalty from which you suffer, or the happy purchase of a treasure to hold dear. (T-14.III.5)

Geese honk at each other as they fly together to encourage and communicate. We need to do the same thing; to communicate with each other in a way that is encouraging, rather than attacking. The Course tells us that the ego always answers first in our minds and its voice is the loudest, but that God’s Answer is always there in our minds, quietly waiting for us to return our thinking to peace, where we will hear His Answer of love.

It is time to turn away from the loud voices of hate in your life and focus on the voices of encouragement and peace. Those are the messages that will awaken us to truth. The Course shows us this can and will be accomplished…

“The ego always seeks to divide and separate. The Holy Spirit always seeks to unify and heal. As you heal you are healed, because the Holy Spirit sees no order of difficulty in healing. Healing is the way to undo the belief in differences, being the only way of perceiving the Sonship as one. This perception is therefore in accord with the laws of God, even in a state of mind that is out of accord with His. The strength of right perception is so great that it brings the mind into accord with His, because it serves His Voice, which is in all of you.” (T-7.IV.5)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, geese help each other. When one goose falls from the formation because of sickness or attack, two geese stay with him until he has recuperated or died. They don’t do this because they get some credit or praise, but because it is instinctual to be “truly helpful.” We have forgotten this in our self-serving society of me-first mentalities, but geese know better. We must care about each other. Again, from the Course’s perspective, your brother is yourself. What you extend to another becomes the atmosphere in which you dwell. Love, kindness, and support beget these blessings.

Let us take to heart the message of the wise geese, as we fly together, not alone. We are stronger together, and our “V” formation is the sign of victory to overcome the world of hate and separation, as we soar collectively for healing and peace.

We are here only to be truly helpful.
We are here to represent Him Who sent us.
We do not have to worry about what to say or what to do, because He Who sent us will direct us.
We are content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with us.
We will be healed as we let Him teach us to heal. (T-2.V.18 paraphrased)

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