Yesterday I rescued a bee from the toilet.

It was floating in there, geometrically centred in the water. It sat, mostly proud of the surface, the opposite of an iceberg, its wings twitching slightly.

There was no way it was staying there. I had to get it out and, if possible, back on its way. We needed it out there, doing good. Besides, it had got this far in its life, it deserved to get a little further.

But how to get it out?

I found a cardboard toilet roll tube in the paper recycling pile. (Hark at me, saving the planet) That might do. It was easy, of course. I dipped the toilet roll tube into the toilet water and scooped the bee into it. Then I lifted him out.

He wasn’t going anywhere until he was dry. I opened the window and put the toilet roll tube sitting on the frame, facing out into the breeze. I looked inside. The bee was in there, trying its wings, feeling the rush of air. I watched for a while but I had other stuff to get done so I left it to it.

When I came back, the bee was gone. I reckoned I’d done a good thing and felt quite good about it. A small life was out there continuing because I took a momentary interest. I told the story to Twitter and even brought it up as a weak anecdote when having dinner with nice people last night. They might have thought I was a no-mates loon except they were nice people so I know they didn’t.

These kind of ‘little deeds’ that I do from time to time bring me a touch of pleasure. They also hang around in my head for a surprisingly long time. This morning, for instance, the bee was still there in my brain, buzzing around. The thought that was recurring went something like this: What if I was just like the bee? 

How does the bee see its world? A world of scent and colour and wind patterns. A world of finding and navigating and returning. A polarised world of work and eventual expiration. Perhaps it has some perception of threat in the form of birds or panes of glass or even us. 

It may know something of these things. But there are things that it cannot even begin to comprehend. Things that are commonplace to us. It cannot know Christmas or telephones or the series-link feature on the Sky box. It cannot know fashion or trying to stand on one’s hands or fishing in the sea in the evening sun. It simply cannot know. And if there are all these things that the bee cannot know, what of the things that we ourselves cannot know?

Hang on, some of you may say, he’s going to do the ‘God’ bit on us now. Others will think I’m going all ‘X-Files’ and will want you to consider little green men and space slugs from Saturn. Not those things. Not at all. I’m just noodling. Noodle, noodle. 

All I’m really thinking, with no agenda at all, is this. If the bee is there in its world and there are things all around it of which it cannot conceive then what may exist beside us or about us or inside us of which we have no grasp at all. That’s why I’m pointedly not thinking about God or Spacemen, because we are capable of dreaming up those things. I’m trying to think about the things we cannot possible imagine and the paradox of that.

I intervened in the bee’s world. I was a thing beyond comprehension, bearing the power to retain life or to take it away. Is it not interesting to toy with the idea, if only for a moment, that it might also be this way for us? Is it not only petty ego that keeps us from considering that we are only top of the heap in our own tiny sphere of consciousness?

Might it not possibly be just as Hamlet said to Horatio. That there are indeed ‘more things in heaven and earth… than are dreamt of in your philosophy”? That some power, completely beyond our comprehension, might one day intervene, pluck us out of whatever mire we find ourselves in, and place us gently in the breeze to dry.

Or else thoughtlessly flush us down.


Jim Murdoch said...

Many years ago I wrote a poem called ‘The Fly’ in which I asked the question: Why did God create the fly? The answer I came up with was: To teach us a lesson in godship. Bees I see the point of, flies not so much. I suppose they must do some good but we never hear about it. Had I found a dirty great bluebottle in my toilet I know exactly what I would’ve done and without a second thought. Like you I would’ve saved the bee. I save spiders. I slap a glass over them, slip a postcard underneath being careful to give them time to climb on the card, flip the whole thing over and free them out in the hall. No problem. Beetles, flies and earwigs I squish.

As far as pondering the imponderable, when I find myself doing that I realise I’m depressed-with-a-capital-d. I only ever think about the meaningless of life when I’m properly depressed. I’m really not a bigger picture kind of guy. I enjoy philosophising about small things; they keep me thoroughly entertained. Realising how much stuff there’s out there that I’ll never have the time to explore is disheartening—it’s like when you total up how many books you expect to read before you die and it’s such a ridiculously small number—so best not to dwell on it. The bumblebee doesn’t know the creature that saved his life will live six or seven hundred times longer than it will; it couldn’t comprehend that. It doesn’t have time worry about how why it shouldn’t be able to fly either; it just flaps its wee wings and leaves beings with six or seven hundred lifetimes to fret over stuff like that.

Ken Armstrong said...

Very nice, Jim.