Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bees and Passion

I was watching an interesting PBS presentation on the relationship between people and the environment. The premise was something like this: all of our decisions to move, build, grow, and transplant various species of animals and plants to new places have effects. I'm no physical scientiest so I can't vouch for the accuracy of the assumptions and conclusions, but it was interesting and gave me food for thought.

However, the part that caught my attention was a contrast between two different types of bees. One was Eurpoean and the other African (or "killer"). The guy in the bee protection get-up went to two different hives and poked a stick around, trying to provoke the bees. Then, once provoked, he took a measuring wheel and walked off just how far the bees would keep up the attack, measuring their perseverance. (If you've ever seen "Mythbusters" on the Discovery Channel, think all the science but less personality and tongue-in-cheek humor.)

The contrasts between the two colonies were fascinating. The first colony, the European type, was not easily disturbed. They pretty much ignored the pokes on the wall of the structure from which they would enter and exit. The "bee instigator" really had to work to get these bees into an agitated state. Once they did start to attack, the instigator walked away, marking just how far they'd travel to sting him. The result: a little more than 100 ft.

The second hive, of the African variety, had a totally different attidude about this instigator. His very presence set them off. The narrator said that carbon dioxide given off by the guy would send a signal; simply his breathing got the guard bees ready to fight. Then, when they did attack, there was a swarm; many more than in the previous group. And once the attack started, they were relentless. Bees were even on the camera lense, (a phenomena you didn't see in the first scenario). The "instigator" now started to walk (pretty quickly). The bees were still at it after 100 ft., 200 ft., 500 ft., 800 ft...till more than 1000 ft. had passed and the last bee finally gave up. Later when interviewed, the instigator said, "I knew if I didn't get out of there, they would kill me. Many of them were concentrated around my head."

A couple of things jumped out at me in making "connections" between the bees and the world in which I live, (giving attention and voice to unseen forces andSpirit movement). First, many of us could learn something about passion from that second set of bees. I know any time a religious sort starts talking about passion and fire in this day and age, we all (this writer included) get a little jumpy wondering if this is some sort of fundamentalist, will be calling us to resort to violence or hatred of one sort or another. Nothing could be further from the truth. My tradition tells us to be passionate, not in our hate, but in our LOVE. "LOVE the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" and "LOVE your neighbor as yourself." (Empahsis mine.)
I wonder if people would describe your life or my life as one of passion and perseverance. Many of us have come up against crappy examples of chr-I-st-I-an-I-ty (notice how many I's there are?) and rather than tenaciously continuing to look for the real deal, we give up and lump all "organized religion" together. If that's you, take a lesson from the bees. Don't give up too quickly.

Second, notice that the bees responded in a swarm, not as individuals. And that the most effective group at defending what was important, sent a larger, more active swarm. How many of us have decided that spirituality is individiual only? My tradition suggests that it is personal, but not individual (I think that is the way Jim Wallis says it). There are many references to the Church being a body or a family. It is really difficult to be an effective severed thumb. If come from a dysfunctional church background, don't think that is the norm or the only option. Keep looking till you find a group of loving, supportive, passionate people who will nurture, encourage, and challenge you to grow in your own spiritual life.

You know this is all analogy. And like any good analogy, it can only be taken so far. For instance. I don't think our religion is supposed to be used to ATTACK. And I will be the first to say too often religions, chr-I-st-I-an-I-ty among them, have been used to hurt and wound and pick-on people. What a warped use of these tremendous gifts of spirit and truth. Shame on any of us who have done it or allow it to happen in our midst.

But do NOT let someone else's stunted, perverted, grotesque representation of a good, turn you off from finding a personal and communal spiritual passion. That wouldn't BEE good.

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