We can take a lesson from Canada geese. They fly in a V formation. They figured out the aeordynamic benefits: each goose, flapping its wings, creates an upward lift for the goose that follows close behind.
The one that flies in the front has the hardest job, since the leader in the formation doesn’t get any help from the others. That’s why they change places from time to time, taking turns being out in front, then falling back to benefit by the upward lift that’s created by those at the lead of the V formation.
Engineers, experimenting with a wind tunnel, ;earned why the geese fly as they do.
The researchers said, “When all the geese do their part in the formation, the whole flock together has a 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone!”
Studying geese in flight they observed that if one of the flock begins to lag behind or wonder off on his own, the others ‘honk’ it back into place.
Some years ago, when I was at a clergy retreat house in Woodstock, Connecticut, a huge flock of geese flew over my head. It was a crisp, cold November morning and I was out for my morning walk, alone, on a path around a pond. I could hear the crunching sound of dry leaves under my feet – my Zen walking meditation was working. It was one of those rare moments of transcendence. I felt connected to something more.
I heard some honking in the distance. As they got closer and louder I looked up, over the water, and saw the first wave flying in my direction. I counted those in the first formation, then other groups followed, and more, and more. There were hundreds of them, flying low enough for me to hear the flapping of their wings. I counted more than 400 of them.
I wondered how they determined who would take the position of leader, out front. Did they have a pecking order? Did they have a specific destination for today? Where would they land to rest and eat and drink?
Shortly after this experience with the flying flocks of geese in formation, I read about the research that explained why they fly the way they do.
I keep trying to understand why we humans behave as we do – and, more specifically, what determines the ways a congregation behaves as we do. I see our similarities to the geese – how we take turns flying in the leadership position, then move to the back while others take up the task of creating the updraft.
How do we know where to land, to rest? What’s our destination, our ultimate vision, and our day-to-day goals? When all of us do our part in this formation, we, too, have a 71% greater flying range than going it alone – maybe more! We’re not likely to honk those who lag behind or who wonder off, but we should let them know we miss them. We try to find ways to welcome new folks into this formation, and to support those who need an uplift.
We can take a lesson from the Canada geese. Honk, honk!