About the Bees

Hello again.

Today I wanted to share an idea I’ve been mulling over, since my thoughts from last week seemed to go over pretty well and because it has to do with my work with animals over the past few weeks.

I’ve noticed that often times people will look at animals and say, “Oh if we were all more like [some animals species] then the world would be a wonderful place, full of cooperation and harmany and peace and hard work!” They say this of ants, and dolphins, and dogs, and bees, and doves and the list goes on. People seem to believe the animal world works by some angelic standard, and humans ought to strive to achieve its innocence and beauty and perfection.

I’ll take bees as an example because I often here people say how hardworking bees are and how humans should try to be more like them. So here’s the truth: I’ve been observing a hive of bees for a month now (we have one on display in the Nature Center) and I can tell you for a fact that bees are cannibalistic, incestuous, fratricidal, filicidal creatures. That is to say that I’ve watched them eat their young simply because they were hungry, and that the queen mates with her brothers, and that they routinely kill all the males in the hive once a year.

It seems to me that no one in our society is advocating eating babies. But they are advocating imitating bees. And bees eat their babies.

I guess my point is that animals are not perfect in some way, they don’t operate by magical innocent rules; there is bloodshed and murder aplenty in the animal kingdom. In fact I would argue humans kill one another less than animals do, even if it’s not by much.

On the flip side, as I’ve been thinking about that, I thought of this: the point of being human is to rise above those animalistic instincts. We are to not murder, not eat our children when we decide we have too many, not to steal, and so on. These are basic rules everyone agrees upon as being beneath any human being. Humanity is, so to speak, called to be more than animals. Called to be better than that.

I mean, really, what do we think of a person who does whatever their urges or desires or instincts (whatever you like to call it) tell them to? That person very quickly becomes a liar, a thief, and even a murderer, and the law cracks down on them. Yet these same things we find perfectly acceptable in animals, who simply follow their urges the same as the hypothetical criminal did.

It seems to me that when we do whatever we like, following our instincts, we give up a bit of our humanity. And when we do the right thing, only because it was right and not because it helps us in any way, we take one more step away from the animal world and become just a little more human.

Does that make sense? This is still a fledgling notion in my mind and I’d love to hear other thoughts.

That’s all for now, I’m quite tired.

Until next time,

Eliza

On Silence

Last week I talked about getting a flip phone. Today I’m going to talk about the silence that comes from being alone with no voices but your own. I’m including in my definition not just the voices of the people physically around us, but those from the internet too.

I’ve only really experienced this once, the first time I ever backpacked. I was hiking in a forest of rather short and underwhelming trees, putting one foot steadfastly in front of the other, catching glimpses of the lake, and following a flat, uninteresting trail. From time to time I saw fishermen on the lake and sometimes I even got close enough to wave. At other times their voices wafted over the water to me, the meaning lost but the inflections preserved. For twenty-four hours it was just the thin forest, the trail, the lake, a few distant fishermen, and me. I was alone in the midst of that reality.

It was eerie. I was unnerved. The silence was crushing and I honestly became afraid that backpacking wasn’t for me, that I couldn’t handle the isolation, that I would buckle under the weight of the silence and have to head home after only a week on the A.T. Later I felt somewhat reassured after I got to backpack with a group and found it to be a very social environment, but that worry still stayed with me for a long time. During this week, however, I’ve begun to see things differently.

I’ve begun to feel that my thru-hike is about confronting the silence. It’s about learning to step back from everything and everyone and learn to see the meaning and beauty that is not loud like the human world, but instead operates within the silence. The subtleness in the sunset, for example, or the pattern in the bark of a tree, or the meaning in the life of a mourning dove. None of these things are loud or obvious, but they are real on a level it’s still difficult for me to grasp, a level I’m just beginning to recognize. And that’s exactly why I have to spend six months in the wilderness: I have to learn to recognize it. It won’t be easy. It will, in fact, be incredibly difficult. But it’s what I need. I need to face the silence.

I guess this thought scares me because all my dysfunctions are laid so horrifyingly bare in the stillness of silence. I hate having nothing to look at but myself. But I want to learn how, and that’s the latest reason I have for my thru-hike.

I wonder if anyone else has dealt with this, in the context of backpacking or a similarly isolated setting? Anyway, just wanted to share that reflection with you this week.

Until next time,

Liza

P.S.

I know, of course, that there will be plenty of people on the A.T. and I will be far from alone. But during those early days when it’s still February, and perhaps the later ones in the North, I may have some instances of isolation. And anyway, I’ll surely have the odd day of walking on my own, which can be a weighty enough silence on its own.

 

 

I Got a Flip Phone!

Yep. I traded in my iPhone for an old-school flip phone. Why? My smart phone was just really distracting.

I guess I’ve been working towards this decision for a while. For a long time I’ve felt like my phone was keeping  me from the more important things in life. With social media and the constant barrage of notifications I feel as though I’m thinking broadly, but not deeply. It’s easy to consume fifty short news articles a day and have a fleeting and insubstantial impression of each one but it’s much harder to sit down and read one chapter of a good book, even if the word counts of the two are roughly equal.

And I’ve begun to suspect that just because I have access to more opinions and information than I ever have before that doesn’t mean I’m digesting it or learning from any of it. In fact, I’m just confusing myself. So my new strategy is to drink deeply of the perspectives of others until my soul understands theirs in some fundamental way. I want to learn and grow from the information I consume and I hope my flip phone will aid me in achieving the clarity of mind I’ll need to do that.

So that was my reasoning. I started trying to implement my plan about a month ago and I’ve been fighting with the phone company ever since just be able to get a flip phone. It’s taken me many visits to three different Sprint stores over the course of a month, but today I finally got this little guy activated and ready to go:

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My phone ❤

I recognize this topic isn’t, strictly speaking, related to backpacking. But it is, in another way, very much in the spirit of backpacking. It’s in the spirit of leaving behind the usual world with its busy chaos and entering a more calm place where there is peace and room to think. Additionally this step is a part of my journey towards the Appalachian Trail and as such I wanted to share it with you guys.

That’s all I have to say today.

Until next time,

Eliza