Falconry and the Art of Surviving Psychopaths

Beautiful, full of personhood - and yet not a human being by any stretch.

Beautiful, full of personhood – and yet not a human being by any stretch.

I keep putting this piece of writing back on the shelf. On some level it offends me – the one writing it – but I don’t know how else to ask the following question.

How do we live in world whose favorite food is the children of all species?

Whether plant children – nuts, grains, seeds – or animal children – eggs, veal, those cute fawns, puppies, kittens, cubs, and so on – all eaters of food agree, we just love to eat babies and children. Usually of other species, of course, but not always…

We live in this world. And yet the very tapestry of this world, the web that has no weaver, weaves itself out of love and heart-shattering beauty. You know the truth of this.

Living in accord with this world, to me, can feel very similar to partnering with a raptor for hunting, as in falconry. Falcons don’t have a speck of collaborative social behavior in them – they either want to steal food from you (as a parent, if you’ve mistakenly allowed them to imprint on you), or escape you to find their own food. They fly solo.


Except, you can, and  humans have for a long while, find a way to partnering with them, based entirely on a system of reward, not punishment. To the falcon, punishment merely underscores your unfathomable and dangerous nature. Reward however, can convince them that they can profit from your presence in more ways than just the “following-on” flight.

Raptors take advantage of your “wake” as you walk through the woods, watching you as you scare up birds, rabbits, and so on – Jon Young calls this strategy “wake-hunting” when he talks about bird language. They catch the frightened and distracted prey on the run, and on the wing.

By starting there – a place of almost partnership – skillful austringers and falconers can work together to partner with their raptors in more ways than the one that comes naturally already. But this must happen from a stand-point of pure reward, because, as non-social animals, they just don’t understand the social dimension of punishment.

When talking with folks struggling with the idea of psychopaths (or “disempaths” those without a capacity for empathy, and a correlating suite of behaviors such as lying, grandiosity, impulse control, and so on), I offer this idea of falconry as a possible way forward. In any case, as predators, psychopaths deserve the respect due to such a natural power.

I don’t claim any expertise in psychopath wrangling, I honestly think for the most part they simply outclass my ability to mitigate their predation, and so I aim for successful identification and avoidance.

Psychopaths may number as many as 1 out of 20 people – and psychopathy, like the rest of reality, has a dimensional quality, meaning that psychopathy doesn’t behave in an either/or fashion, but rather occupies one end of the scale from true empath (can’t distinguish between your emotions and that of others, often overwhelmed by it) to ho-hum empathetic jane average to psychopath (has no consciousness of feelings in others except as behaviors to manipulate, has only superficial range of feelings – i.e., frustration and enjoyment). Even this puts it a bit simplistically, but I hope it helps.

Now, by comparing raptors and psychopaths I’ve put myself in a bad position, because I do believe raptors have the ability to connect, even knowing their neurobiological lack of hardwired social or collaborative behaviors. I believe every living thing on this earth, both growing and non-growing, can connect with each other through love and the hunger for beauty and appreciation.

And yet…

Psychopaths. Though storms have terrible force, and wreak destruction seemingly out of regard for any other being, I believe they have an empathic capacity, just as I believe raptors do. Yet psychopaths don’t.

Evil walks this earth as a psychopath – a predator that eats the young of others without appreciation or connection. Alone but strangers to loneliness, constantly in flight from the horror of boredom, their only agony.

Evil doesn’t require a flesh and blood body to do its work – as members of the dying culture in the last throes of devouring the world, we know what entrapment inside a psychopathic beast made entirely of vampiric ghosts (corporate personhood, nationhood, the rapacious media culture) feels like.

Where else does enslavement, capitalism, communism, ism-ism, and all that come from except from the mind of a vampire?

Then how do we live with psychopaths? Well, I don’t think we can. I see only a two options – we can survive them (and learn from our mistakes), or we can die in their jaws as beautifully as possible to spite them and feed the divine earth.

Welcome to the next two decades of your life.

Written by Willem