Buddhist Bees


I worry about bees these days. I know that I don’t need to, but I do. I enjoy watching them move about the Nanking Cherry bush; I enjoy listening to them and trying to pick the Italians from the Carniolans. The day that I am doing this is sunny and the clouds are lingering. The bees are busy doing bee things and I am busy brewing beer and…worrying about tomorrow. That’s how we humans are: we worry about things that we have no control over. The bees cannot worry about tomorrow and I wonder if they would even if they could.


You see I am told that the next day will bring snow, a cold snap that is normal for this time of year in Colorado. I also know that temperatures below app. Fifty degrees become problematic for bees. They cannot move, forage, and must huddle together in their hive keeping their brood and each other warm. The difference, I realize, is that I am busy worrying about the future and the bees are busy doing what needs to be done at this very moment. There is a religious irony here somewhere. The Buddhist religion’s basic claim is that there is no other reality than the present. The bees act like Buddhists while we think about Buddhism.


While I’m watching the bees I hear my wort (unfermented beer) begin to boil over: a watched pot will never boil, but one that is forgotten, well that’s another story. I am not minding my own business while the bees mind theirs. I am worried about the bee’s future while the bees are busy with their present business. Somehow none of it makes sense, but that is Buddhism, and the bees being the Buddhists that they are, are not aware. I am aware and run back to the pot.


There are other ironies involves but the whole business gets complicated. I complicate my life by worrying about the future; the bees simplify theirs by doing what needs to be done in the present. I’ve seen a whole hive dead from starvation which is not a pretty sight, “butts in the air” as beekeepers say, the abdomens of the bees sticking out from the honeycombs as the bees searched for food in the bottoms of the combs. My heart drops and I get a twist in my gut. However, I’m pretty sure that even at death’s door, the dead bees lived in the present.


That’s how all of nature is and I begin to wonder if it is the idea, the concept of the future that separates we humans from nature more than anything else? Nature has no future, in fact the future doesn’t exist, but we create the future and then (what else?) worry about it. There is a philosophical argument here: we are free but the bees are not: driven by genetics the bees act accordingly. But I’m not sure that the payoff is worth it. We are not as free as we believe ourselves to be. Do we choose to worry about the future, or are we preprogrammed to do so? What would you do if you could?


The bees have no such thoughts and they are beautiful because of it. I get my wort under control and wander back to the cherry bush. I look at my empty garden, and the fruit bushes getting ready to bloom, the birdhouse I built still empty, and notice the robins in the juniper bush in the back corner; I see the bucket of water left out for the fox and my eyes glance at the new garlic plants, and I remember that I need to water the seedlings in the workshop. All the while, the bees move methodically from flower to flower, gathering pollen, being a bee.



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