Tickle the Amygdala

I am done with great things and big plans. I am for those tiny, invisible loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillaries oozing of water, which, if given time, will rend the hardest of monuments of pride.  —William James

Background with abstract pattern from green leaf
Social transformation, I learned at my retreat this past weekend, means working in the “little way” sometimes. Small, incremental changes. Not big and grand.

That is what happened last Thursday as we sat down around a long board table of City officials to talk about creating a Bee City USA.

There was clearly resistance and worry of being “forced to change” how we do business with the application of chemicals on our public spaces.

I personally hoped for a point of collaboration.

I did my pollinator friendly presentation, stated my concern about loss of habitat due to the herbicide RoundUP, and the insecticides that are harming bees— neonicitinoids in particular. A nerve poison, if you will, for insects.

One by one, each department stated their integrated pest management plan. To the surprise of my colleagues and I, those officials continued to work towards the best possible IPM, with regulations imposed by state and federal laws.

We all noted that one of the biggest unregulated culprits were backyard sprayers, with over the counter poisons. Your average homeowner who grabs a gallon of RoundUP or any other given pesticide or herbicide at Lowe’s or Home Depot on the weekend and sprays indiscriminately. We all agreed upon increased collaboration to educate the public about this danger.

It was a start. Though we did not come away with a resolution, we did get up from the table with an agreement to work together towards the best practices and health of the city’s open spaces. We did agree to sit again in January and talk about the specifics of a resolution.

Little by little, reaching out across the things that divide us..

This past weekend I also learned about a book which talks about “tickling” that part of your brain where memory and emotional responses are lodged (Tickle Your Amygdala by Neil G. Slade). The amygdala is that primal brain where autononomic responses associated with fear and fear conditioning are located.  But it is also the place where the emotion of pleasure is experienced. “Tickling the amygdala”  can turn on the best parts of the brain towards a good end, rather than keep us stuck in fight or flight.

My teacher reminded me that social transformation doesn’t happen, usually can’t happen, if people are constantly in that frozen or aggressive stage of panic, terror and fear. If instead, you begin in that comfort zone where civilities and values are exchanged and shared, bit by bit we can move towards change— like those rootlets in William James’ image…streeeetching towards a new world by millions of small acts of courage and collaboration across our differences.

The attacks in Paris, France reminded me again that terror will destroy the web of trust quicker than anything. It will erode the relationships that lubricate civil society which allow us to live together and work towards the healthiest world possible.

Bees teach us about social cooperation. They illustrate selfless acts to bind up and further the commonwealth of the collective. Though they also engage in heartless and cruel acts at times, the ongoing thrust of the colony is towards survival and thriving of the whole. May it bee so.

Cartoon Queen Bee - Royalty Free Clipart Picture

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