The laws of nature are said to be written in the same language that birds sing their songs in. Mastery of this secret tongue has only been claimed by a handful of human beings over the centuries, and even they could neither speak it nor translate it, only understand it.

Over time, the natural sciences came to doubt the divinity of avian songs, and the endeavor to understand the language of the universe was passed on to mathematicians, for theirs was believed to be the most pure language available to mankind. Theirs was the study of space, and relationship, and number, concepts untainted by the grasp of matter. Even so, scholars found that mathematics could only describe the laws of nature, rather than truly express them. It was similar to the problem of how no clock could ever actually be more accurate than a sundial; mathematics could approach the truth indefinitely, yet could never actually become it.

Parallel in history to such workings, a handful of scholars continued their pursuit of a perfect avian language- and some among them even claimed to have succeeded in understanding it. In his book, appropriately titled Glossary of the Birds, nineteenth century theologian George Hollingway Brothers scrawled hundreds of pages of what appears to be sheet music. In place of notes, however, its staff is splattered with a mess of glyphs, and each line is flanked on its left-hand side by one of seventy-two elaborate, alien “clefs” that appear throughout.

"These clefs are the missing link between human and avian language," he writes. "They are the impronounceable names of God, never truly uttered by the birds, but implicit in their patterns of speech. Every bird song implies the clef that it obeys through its melody, and in this manner, the birds themselves are able to invoke objective truth through song.”

Throughout his text, Brothers offers occasional approximations of birdsong in English, though he also argues that such things are “as meaningless as attempts to square the circle.” His guides to interpretation are nearly unintelligible, and include such vexing advice as “search for sharp angles in the call of the mourning dove," or “listen to half of the owl at a time.” As the text progresses, it occasionally seems as though his ascetic studies have caused him to forget how to communicate with human beings altogether.

Towards the end of his book, however, Brothers offers a single, lucid passage: "I have learned things about the universe not known to man since the age of Hermes. I have learned the one-hundred fourty-four ways love can exist between two living things, and how rivers choose the paths they carve between landscapes, and how the covenants between predators and their prey are maintained to prevent extinction. I have no means of conveying these things in human tongues without demeaning them, so I shall refrain from doing so.

"I have, however, learned nothing of the mechanical laws of the universe. Having come to understand the holy tongue, I am certain that there is no better vessel to express them with, though I have never heard such things spoken of once. The birds are extraordinarily wise, in ways that human thought can only approximate, but if they have expressions for these forces, I have never once heard them uttered. Because they certainly possess the necessary wisdom, I must conclude that they do not care. And why would they? Matters like gravity do not concern them in the same manner that they concern us. They have no desire to seize control of the forces of the world, and in this lies their greatest wisdom of all.”

The status of mathematics as a universal language is left as an exercise to the reader.

Birds that mimic their surroundings have the most complex language of all.

Birds may be using their songs as encryption- there is biological precedent for this.