By Kevin Stoda
Last week my pastor at church shared one of those popular power points circulating on the internet.
It was a well-done production about eagles. The life story of eagles is shared in order to discuss the need for change and rebirth—and how this can be a painful process.
The legend under (and above) the photos concerned the lifespan of eagles. The narrator explains that eagles live 70 years—much longer than other birds of prey. The most remarkable thing about the lifespan of eagles is a change that they must voluntarily undergo when they are about 40 to 45 years of age.
By the age of 40 the eagle has becomes less able to compete in the natural environment.
It flies slower, it is weighed down by very many older feathers. It’s beak is too long and too curved to properly and deftly capture its prey. It’s talons are also too long and curled.
At this junction in the eagle’s life, it must take decisions to revamp and transform itself. In the narrated power point presentation, the audience is told: The eagle flies to its mountain nest and begins a 150 day process of painful transformation.
During this five-month period the aging eagle begins to slam its aged beak against the sides of rocks. Over and over again, the eagle painfully continues to slug the boulders with its beak until the edges of the beak tear. Despite the pain and blood, the eagle continues until the entire crooked- and aging beak has fallen off.
Only then can a new beak grow in.
A similar painful process is undertaken with the feathers. The aging eagle plucks out the feathers one-by-one—until they are all gone. Then new feathers grow in quickly.
Also, the giant 40- to 45-year old bird goes after its lengthy talons with the same energy and with great pain. The eagle tears out the talons one-at-a-time, so that new ones can grow in.
After this painful episode comes to an end, the aging bird is transformed into a much faster and active creature than it was only a few months before.
The eagle then goes out and lives another 25 or 30 years and is able to compete with the younger birds of prey once again.
Naturally such a power point is targeted at those who are considering the need to change how painful it might be to undergo such change. They are also given a clear indication that after the painful transition, a wonderful and empowering transformation will have been made.
Such an eagle-metaphor slide-presentation is aimed at both individuals and at organizations.
Naturally, I share this tale because I think the eagle—as America’s national bird—is the animal that most represents or symbolizes America historically—both at the national and at the international level.