Monday, June 8, 2015
Bees and gods
I have been reading books about bees, especially bumblebees. This has made me far more attentive to them and excited by their presence. Seeing a bumblebee in my yard was not formerly an event with the thrilling significance of seeing a cat or a raccoon, but suddenly now it is. One of those giant, tiny beasts comes trundling about the flowers of our weeds, and I am delighted and fully engaged. I think it helps too that my vague uneasiness about a bumblebee stinging me is almost entirely gone. The author of A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures With Bumblebees says bumblebees are very non aggressive and, it turns out, I simply believe him. Suddenly I am finding bumblebees to be downright friendly.
This bumblebee interest has also made me far more aware of the pollination process and has me looking at flowers in new ways too. Walking through my neighborhood yesterday I saw a fantastic flower in bloom, a great saucer of white petals all full of a lovely yellow forest of pistils and stamens in the middle. I thought, what a glorious thing, what a feast for the little ones, what a brilliant invention of propagation! I mean, there are all these plants, all over the world, nearly all of them unable to walk around, relying on wind and luck to make children, casting their hopes and dreams a few hundred paltry feet at the absolute best, when, suddenly, somewhere, the flower appears. The flower goes into collaboration with insects, bees. It provides food in exchange for travel privileges. Everyone benefits! It's lovely.
Reflecting on this modern pollination, all done with especially beautiful and fanciful creatures (flowers, bumblebees, hummingbirds!), I thought: If the gods had stopped here, if this was the full model for all the operating of life and the universe, all my dissent would cease. I would be religious in the deepest sense, an acolyte, a creature of pure wonderment and praise. I would say "God is great" and "God is good." I would not hesitate in my adulation of the endless wisdom of the world. I would not mock God's secret plan because God's plan would not be secret. It would be laid bare and unassailable, complete and endlessly radiant.
But alas, the gods do not, or God does not, stop at the inventions of pollination and rainbows. With bumblebees things go dark quickly. Assorted bumblebee parasites invade hives and implant larvae in the bees themselves that then eat their way out of the bee, exploding from the inside. There are varieties of bees that even specialize in this. There is no shortage of disease, death, and attack. Infanticide is a ready part of bumblebee life too as sisters compete with each other for motherhood. The kindly bumblebee can be a killer too.
And so I write my blog in opposition, because some religious figure must do so, some theology must look at science, competition, animals exploding from other, eaten alive animals, at the gods' twisted invention of the living nightmare, and say:
The world is a master class in complete systems, a wonder of moving parts. It is full of fascinations and endless genius, beauty and terror. And it is everything, immutable, beyond us. But if it was made by anyone, that being has a cold heart. And you have no responsibility to worship. Indeed the impulse should be resisted. We are here to fight the gods, for they give and they take and, most of all, they are wanton. The gods have no secret plan. We cannot make the Universe better. But here is faith for you:
Somewhere it has to be possible.