Month: October 2015

Fear, Power, Clarity, and Old Age

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Many, many moons ago I read a series of books by Carlos Castaneda. The books were not that good, although this is something that realized only long after I had read them. But, like many things I’ve learned since then, we can learn things from the most surprising of places. Castaneda’s books presented an idea of life that I have not since forgotten.

In a discussion with a wise, old Indian, Castaneda finds that we have four enemies in life: fear, power, clarity, and old age. I have since thought much about these enemies. Now that life has presented me with yet another challenge, they come to mind again. The story is similar to many of the stories we learn to not disregard so quickly.

The first enemy, fear, is the easiest enemy to understand, and when we understand fear, we have in fact defeated it. The problem with these enemies is that they never tire in their attacks. When we have defeated fear, then comes power. Power is often thought of as enlightenment but it is trickster. Power is not enlightenment, but blind capability. We must defeat power by understanding that it is an illusion. But power, like fear, never tires in its attack.

Clarity, or enlightenment, is the prize in overcoming the illusion of power. But enlightenment, like the other enemies, is a precarious path that we must take care when we follow it. Arrogance (power) is often the result of careless enlightenment. Dogma is the result when we cease to ask questions. When we cease to ask questions fear begins its work. When we come to realize that we have completed the circle, only to begin again, we are often too old to correct mistakes; we can never defeat old age.

And so it is with a particular endeavor that I now spend time fearing, overcoming, understanding, and again fearing. It seems that the only thing left is to grow old, but I need to grow old at least trying, even if failure is the only option. I have a dream that I fear because I know that I have the power to achieve it because I am aware of the work required. I am only left with the time to do it, and that is running shorter every minute of the day.

Carpe Diem

For Beekeepers Everywhere

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For beekeepers, fall is sometimes the time for raider bees: those bees that look for the year’s last source of food, which is sometimes a weak hive.   The raiders make for the entrance en force and then raid food stores of the hive. Once in, the raiders have no problems, as the defense of the hive is limited. The raiders gorge themselves with food and make their way out of the raided hive and to their own.

Raiding is a problem for beekeepers because it often leads to the death of hives during and sometimes before winter but the issue is not that bees raid; that’s what bees do: survive. The issue is how to stop raiding bees. In my battles with raiding bees I noticed that I was approaching the problem as a human being rather than approaching the problem from the perspective of the bee.

As humans we are capable of empathy, but bees are not empathetic. As humans we approach things intellectually, but bees are not and do not respond to intellect. As humans we understand praise and penalties, but bees do not make these correlations.

With this in mind, I fashioned a screen with some scrap wire and fitted it to the entrance of the hive being raided. I did this early in the morning before the raiders showed up. In the afternoon the raiding bees were bunched up on the screen as were my own bees, but in the safety of their own hive.

I felt bad for my bees being locked in. Later in the day, in fact late in the afternoon I noticed that the raiding bees began to thin out. At that time a removed the screen until the next morning giving my bees a few hours outside and the ability to defend the hive against the few remaining raiding bees.

During this time I provided feed for the hive with a top bar feeder. I have found that after a few days, or at worst after the first freeze that the raiding bees ceased and desisted. My problem, then, was only supporting the weak hive over the winter. Some say that supporting a weak hive is not worth the effort, but after all I am only human; my empathy a weakness, my love of lost causes a fortune.

Fall Back, Spring Forward

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It is the middle of October and where I live this typically means cooler weather. The nights are indeed cool, but the days are still warm. I can imagine my bees huddling up in a tight clump in the hive during the night, but during the day they fly around, busy as a bee. Being a matriarchal society winter beehives typically cull the males and downsize in general in order to make it through the winter. They fall back on the bare necessities; while in the spring work towards building populations and searching for food is immediately began; they “spring forward”.

The phrases, “fall back” and “spring forward” are typically used with regard to us setting our clocks differently, but my cutesy way of using these phrases has a bit different motivation. For eons, human beings have acted not too differently than beehives: in the fall and winter we have needed to rely upon what we could ready ourselves with during the spring and summer. This cycle is natural, and I would argue, necessary to the well-being of us as individuals and the societies in which we live. To fall back and spring forward is sustainable.

As I think about these things, looking at bees, I think about how far we have come in separating ourselves from the natural cycles that really define us. What we have historically defined as progress is not necessarily growth, but the decisions to limit ourselves to the natural and ethical laws that will inevitably come into play.

Bees, of course, do not think of such things; they are not limited, but defined by the natural laws that we spend time taking advantage of and often forgetting. But, if bees were able to forget, I’m not sure that they would choose to do so. Even bees seem to fall back upon the “cold and cruel” culling of males during the winter; this is the nature of things.

I suppose, sipping my coffee and pondering upon bees, nature, and the like that I think it is time for us to fall back upon common sense and spring forward into the inevitable future that we face. I can’t say for sure whether this future is good or bad, but like the bees I do think it is time for us to consider if we have any say-so in the matter. The bees have made their decision.

 

Look Up

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Gardeners tend to spend a lot of time with a shovel in the ground digging and covering up. Making sure seeds are laid comfortably to rest bends the neck forward and the care that we give to the earth tends to take its toll on the broad perspectives that often help us understand why we do what we do. Shoulders bent to the ground, we look at the holes we dig, lay the seed gently in the ground, and cover them back up. To grow your own food is a revolutionary act, but to understand why we must revolt, why it is imperative to grow our own food, takes the willingness to look up at the sun that makes what we do possible and why we must do it.

One of the most freeing things I’ve ever read was that gardening is a revolutionary act. But like all meaningful endeavors, it comes at a cost. Sometimes, to remind myself of this, I go out in the garden late at night and look up. I always think about when the stars were considered “holes” in the cloak of the sky-ceiling; the light coming down from heaven. Sometimes I felt like the small seeds that I covered diligently with soil only to get excited when they reappeared as a one small and ever so slight leaf on a shivering stem.

How is it that revolutions start? With one, small act while all the time remembering what that act stands for and why we do it. As David Blume stated in the Los Angeles Times, “By being an organic farmer, you fly in the face of every part of the power structure,” Blume said. “Refusing to use chemicals, refusing to use genetically modified seeds–it’s a real act of defiance.” And what better reason to garden?

Give it to “the Man”; plant a tomato! Screw the corporations that siphon our freedoms, and buy a chipper/shredder! Save and trade seeds, and save human history from the Monsanto’s of the world! Do all of these things and do them proudly, but always remember why you do them: look up and be awed by nature in order to understand why revolting against almost everything we’ve been taught is so important. The corporations are the result of people forgetting to look up every once in a while.

Albert Camus once wrote that nothing will matter in a million years, and that is probably true, but revolutions do not think about futures; they act in the present. What better thing can we do than to do what we know is right, and know why we do what we do. There is nothing more gratifying than doing the right thing except for knowing why it is right.

So, look up every once in a while, while kneeling at the alter of the earth. Plant those seeds that you’ve saved and then lay in the grass dreaming of a day when we are all revolutionaries.