Double Mountain Men And Other Problems With Invertebrates
Nonfiction. Really bloggy vibe. Includes: Bee complaints, hypothetical questions and a weird ending.
I guess most neck stabbings come as a surprise, but I remember feeling particularly hard done by. In broad daylight, a thin and red hot dagger had been thrust into my neck seemingly for no reason. The pain was sharp and inexplicable; I’d just been minding my own beeswax.
Well, I remember thinking - surprisingly coherently, No point complaining about it now. What’s stabbed is stabbed. Best apply some pressure to the wound and start thinking about a tourniquet. I put my hand up to press on what I thought would be a grievous, gaping hole in my neck. Instead I felt something small and furry.
A bee. The little bastard. I ripped it out by the stinger and held it in my palm.
“Was it worth it?” I asked the corpse. No answer.
For the next few days the sting was was itchy, but really nothing more than vaguely annoying. And so every time I scratched it I found myself wondering, with a frown, how a tiny insect I had never even spoken to could hate me, soooo much, that it would sacrifice its life to vaguely annoy me.
Consider also that the bees are disappearing. Their population numbers are in rapid decline and a suicide stinging in broad spanking daylight can’t be helping the cause. Not only did the bee die to make me itchy, it jeopardised the future of its entire species to do so, and that made it hard not to feel quite personally attacked.
I did some research. Worker bees have brains the size of a sesame seed and live for only six weeks, and one kamikazeeing little fucker cut its very finite time on Planet Earth short just to spite me.
I got lost trying to make sense of it all. My existential, entomological spiral featured such unanswerable questions as: Did the bee really mean to hurt me? Did it know it was going to die? Do bees have a concept of an afterlife? Am I so instantly and obviously unlikeable that something with a brain the size of a sesame seed killed itself to irritate me? Do I need to use a less flowery soap? Has the hive noticed a little trooper is missing from their ranks? Do the poor bee’s family still look wistfully at the sunset and think, “Bzzz bzzz, God, bzz, I hope Bee-njamin comes home tomorrow, bzzz”?
A few days later a fly repeatedly smashed itself into my bedroom mirror. Again and again. Bang. Buzz. Buzz. Bang. Bang. Buzz. It led to a moment of reflection - for me and for the mirror - and I started to think that maybe I was being a little close minded. A bit egocentric. Self-centered. I realised this fly wasn’t malicious, it was an idiot bug trapped in a place it didn’t want to be. And I realised that that bee was probably just doing its best, to strive for the hive as it were, and once again I’d made another living creature’s suffering all about me. Instead, I should empathise with the little bastard. I should put myself in its… uhh, I want to say thorax? They have thoraxes right? See, I don’t know much about bee anatomy - and that’s really the crux of the problem.
So I tried the following thought exercise, which you are very welcome to try as well: imagine what you would do if you came across a creature that was as big to you as you are to a bee. I am 915 times bigger than the average bee, and something 915 times bigger than me would be approximately twice the height of Mt Everest. I have decided to name this hypothetical beast DOUBLE MOUNTAIN MAN. It has 18,000 arms and 18,000 legs and its brain is comfortably bigger than three Olympic swimming pools. Also its comparative life expectancy would be something like 50,000 calendar years. That’s a bit of fun.
Now I’m starting to see where the bee is coming from. Something so big and so practically immortal would be pretty disconcerting. And sure, I’d try to ignore it and get on with my work (such as: bullshit like this, I guess) as best I could, but even if DOUBLE MOUNTAIN MAN was nearby it would be hard to concentrate. I’d probably start to feel a bit threatened by the thing. Inevitably, I’d start to worry about the safety of myself and my family and even the whole human race. I’d start to question the purpose of my tiny, short existence, and what it meant for the meaning of my life that DOUBLE MOUNTAIN MAN’s was so humongous and seemingly eternal. And so yeah, if the great hulking beast turned around, exposing its mighty neck, even if it was minding its own beeswax, I could see myself getting into a plane to try and stab the thing with a pointed stick. Even at the cost of my own life.
“Take that DOUBLE MOUNTAIN MAN!” I’d scream, just before it flicks me away to my presumed hero’s death.
Jeez, what a tangent. Bumped up the word count at least.
You know, maybe the stinging wasn’t about me at all. Maybe it was about the bee? Perhaps its sesame seed brain was overrun by feelings of angst or inadequacy. What if it had fallen really far behind on its honey KPI’s, or if pollination just wasn’t fulfilling anymore. Maybe it didn’t hate me at all but actually, really, hated itself.
It’s not all busy buzzing and honey, you know.
I guess the question is, would you actually expect DOUBLE MOUNTAIN MAN to care if he squished you, considering that there’s only one of him and seven and a half billion of us? Surely he's got bigger fish to fry. Literally bigger fish - like an average salmon would be 732m long in that bizarro mega-world of his.
I don’t know what any of this means. I guess, perspective is important? Having compassion for insects is really illogical and hard? Scale is hard to calculate (and so my maths might off, but don't check it)?
Maybe what this tells us is that our whole universe is the relative size of an ant colony to some omnipotent super-being, who can’t care or conceive of our plight any more than we can empathise with a pile of dirt? Seriously, is my soap too flowery? Is this ending is a little heavy-handed? And also kinda out of nowhere because this article was just about bugs and now it’s about, like, metaphysics or something?
Ugh. Whatever. Goodbye.