Thursday, September 25, 2008

What "white raven" means.

White ravens, and black swans: they are both anomalies, something highly unusual. Observations in nature show us white, or piebald, ravens and crows tending to be leaders of the flock. Black swans is a term coined to indicate the unpredictable historic anomaly that changes everything. The Black Plague, the Great Depression, WW1, 9/11, come to mind. 

In Russia, the raven is known as a clever creature. And, the meaning of clever, to the Russians, is slightly different than how we Americans usually think of it. The Russians say one is clever when they are intelligent, but they also tend to think of the clever person as one who is, or will be, successful. We tend to think of "clever" as something less than honest. Kinda like the Kiowa legend. I kinda like the Russian usage, as we don't have a common American word to describe the concept.

Thus, in Russian cultural observations, a white raven (or crow), is someone who is intelligent, successful, and different. Not your usual run of the cafeteria joe. It also carries a certain hazard in Russian culture, though, as standing out in Russian culture can be dangerous. 

A Russian friend once likened me to a white raven, in the Russian sense. A compliment I greatly appreciated.  

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