These are mean times we live in. It reminds me of Charles Dickens’s opening lines in A Tale of Two Cities, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Despite meanness, life affirming work continues to squish up through our commonwealth toes. Global grassroots organizers like Ruth Nyambura, a Kenyan political ecologist; and Kandi Mossett, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network in North Dakota balance out begrudging world leaders on Climate Change action. Fresh faces like U.S. Bernie Sanders and Canadian Justin Trudeau’s “sunny ways” politics balance out the cold war, fear mongering political attitudes of a tired, old WWII bunker paradigm.
What do bees have to do with this?
Bees speak to us of the kind of collective activity and flurry of coming together for survival sake which must happen in these mean times. Such times, by the way, are also rich with opportunity. As big and angry and ugly as the the death dealing, fossil fuel and global banking industry remains, much bigger is the voice and heartbeat for life— in all it’s many manifestations of health, whether creaturely, plant or human.
As Mark Winston, biologist, beekeeper, and Academic Director of the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, wrote in BeeTime: Lessons from the Hive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 2014)p. 17:
If there is one notable message from honeybees, it lies in the power of their collective response to stress, in the way they allocate work, communicate, make decisions, and balance individual activities with their communal imperatives. Our decision either to emulate honeybees by opting for the collective good or to pursue personal interests and individual gain may be the decisive factor in the success or failure of our response to contemporary environmental challenges.
These days my bees huddle together for warmth, in a football sized ball. Collectively they slowly rotate from the inside of the ball to the outside, taking turns in the center of the warmth. The babies and queen stay at the center all the time and the goal is to keep the future generation from freezing to death. Bees emit heat by vibrating their flight muscles together, keeping the ambient temperature at around 98 degrees F. During the winter they will slowly eat through their honey and pollen stores.
They are tens of thousands of ordinary bees. Most will not live out the winter or see the next Spring come.
In the end, it is going to be millions of ordinary human beings that bring about the change needed for this generation. The social transformation that is needed now to contain the odious threats of Climate Change will ultimately be driven by ordinary citizens like us. We are the ones who must move us from Mean Times to Kind Times, from Ignorance to Wisdom, from Industrial Fossil fueled steroid injected lifestyles to Earth balanced, respectful, Eco-centric ones —for the commonwealth of the whole biotic community.
I will end with a brilliant quote by Rabbi Marc Gellman, spoken at the Yankee stadium on September 23, 2001, in the wake 9-11. Entitled “We are Unbreakable”. My bees know this inherently.
The Talmud and the African tribe, the Masai tribe, both teach a wisdom for our wounded world. They both taught:
Sticks alone can be broken by a child, but sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.
The fears and sorrows of this moment are so heavy, they can break us if we try to bear them alone. But if we are bundled together – if we stick together – we are unbreakable.
And we shall do far more than merely survive. We shall overcome. We shall overcome the forces of hatred, without allowing hatred to unbundle us. We shall overcome the forces of terror, without using fear to unbundle us.
So in all our comings and our goings, from this time forth, let us remember: That the person next to you, in front of you, behind you, is not merely an obstacle to your free and unfettered life. They are a part of this bundle, that keeps you and each of us from breaking.
Let us never again view our fellow New Yorkers, our fellow Americans, our fellow citizens of the world, (I would add, our fellow creatures and biosphere)as limitations on our life or freedom. But rather as the moral twine that binds us, and saves us, and delivers us from evil.