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Parrot sitting on arm.

Blocking the Parrot

...Through association, memory, which is knowledge, there is recognition, and then I say: ‘It is a parrot’. The word ‘parrot’ has blocked you from looking at the bird, the thing that flies. We almost never look at the fact, but at the word or the symbol that stands for the fact. The fact recedes, and the word, the symbol, becomes all-important....

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1960)


Parrots, like the one above, seem so evident, attention grabbing, almost intrusive against thought, that it is hard to credit Krishnamurti’s claim that the word overwrites the bird. However, thinking back on any object, how much of that which was behind the word is accessible to your memory? Words as symbols Lotus buds rising above muddy water.
Words as paradigm examples of symbols.

are the atoms of communication; in memory this is communication with ourselves; in public we use these symbols to unite our individual mental lives, parrot keepers must work with symbols, rather than parrots, if they are to keep their charges safe. Particular parrots are legion, Shafts of light on the landscape north of Sa Pa in Vietnam. Particulars are ackward things with which to deal.

and neither linguistic thought nor speech deals with them. Krishnamurti is here tackling what is often seen as a philosophical question Mist forming up the valley among the trees of Ae forest. Wittgenstein is musing in similar vein to Krishnamurti - language is like clothing. from a novel direction. His interest is in how meditation leads us back behind the words. Man sitting meditating on bench. Forms of meditation can be understood as loosening the word-object link. The word parrot is not glued to the thing that flies, it is we who have raised this sign board between ourselves and the bird, often rendering the flier invisible.

The quote is from page 107 of Krishnamurti’s third series of notebooks which were published under the title Commentaries on Living - Series Three, Edited by D. Rajagopal, Krishnamurti Foundation of India.

The parrot was photographed in the then Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park, Kirkcudbright, Scotland. It closed to the public in 2017.

Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 27th May 2023

Murphy on duty to this site