Thursday, July 17, 2008

A song of happy uselessness

Some creatures are useless, just like our son - and we don't mind a bit.

At the coffeeshop near our home, a group of songbird enthusiasts congregate each morning. The birdcages are hung on hooks and the feathered choir serenades all passers-by. They're not good for much, these warblers: They don't catch vermin for their supper, they'll never be good to eat (or so we assume!) and you can't even take one for a walk.

But so what if they are ne'er-do-wells? Their song is a great pick-me-up, a great reconnecting with nature - and many sport colourful plumage that is a joy to the eye.

Sonny's useless too. At the moment, that is to say, he can't hold a conversation, play a game of badminton or even be told to go fetch the morning paper. A half-trained terrier, if we are to be clear-eyed about it, is much more useful. Our son needs help with the most elementary of things - his mother must file his nails every two days just to keep him from scratching himself (see our post, 'First blood').

Yet Sonny's a songbird in his own way. Just the other day, Pa called home from work. Mum put Sonny on, and Pa was suddenly treated to a series of mellifluous burblings. It was rendered in perfect baby pitch, which is to say it was a series of totally random sounds that rose and fell, rose and fell, without any artifice. And for all that, it was a happy gurgling, cheery and undirected, without any of the sadness that bitter life experience can bring. No songbird ever sounded more free from care.

Art and great music are 'useless' too, of course, but these are at least the product of conscious minds striving to present ideas, or at perhaps just to provide pleasure. Babies, every bit as much as warbling birds, can't even try for that much. In fact, at least songbirds are presumably hoping to attract mates. As Sonny strikes his notes of incoherent merriment, we suspect that - half the time - there's nothing more to be said but that he enjoys making the sounds.

Well, we enjoy listening to them... and they certainly beat his loud crying!