Being the Bee

I’ve been reading a bunch during the holiday mini-break. I just finished one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. If you are interested in globalization, South America, Bolivia, NGOs, environmentalism, indigenous rights or politics, I highly recommend “Whispering in the Giant’s Ear.” Written by William Powers, this is a nonfiction tale of a nonprofit worker’s experience in Bolivia during recent and on-going political turmoil. His perspective is so completely different from mine, and considering I’m a nonprofit worker whose passport has more than one Bolivian stamp, I truly enjoyed his writing.
One scene, where he is out in the middle of the Amazon with a group of indigenous coworkers when their truck gets stuck in the mud. Everyone but the writer knows that bees will find them within a few minutes. Thousands of bees. They need to get the truck unstuck pronto. He writes about this scene with such clarity and humor:
“Gaspar now changes tack. He puts a tiny hand on my shoulder and says, “You are a bee.”
I momentarily forget the pain of my stings and look down at Gaspar’s slight, finely wrought face. He continues “Just relax. If you don’t get nervous, no pasa nada.” By tensing up, he explains, I was going against the “bee energy” and causing them to react against me. I needed to go with the flow.
With fresh resolve, I turn and walk back toward the dreaded pickup. As the buzzing sounds builds, I repeat to myself, “You are a bee. You are a bee.” I slide into the front seat, remarkably calm, repeating my mantra and gently shooing a bee… They perch on my eyelashes and eyebrows, burrow in my hair, explore my leg hairs. You are a bee. I was a bee! Not a single sting and their little legs, which had felt so creepy-crawly, are now just a light tickle. That they are not stinging further builds my confidence. I am fully relaxed, the communal buzz a gigantic om.

At other times his words simply struck a cord and I found myself dog-earing page after page, hoping the library wouldn’t mind.
My parents’ asceticism, including a strict TV protocol, inoculated me from consumerism more than many of my peers, but I am far from immune. There’s the Gap, its doors revolving, consumer in, consumer out, and I hesitate. Harvard Sociologist Daniel Bell warned us in 1976 , our bicentennial year, about “the cultural contradictions of capitalism,” arguing that while capitalism hinges on such virtues as asceticism, thrift and self-denial, it produces social surpluses that lead to luxury, deepened materialism, nurture acquisitiveness, and turn self-indulgence into a birthright. Tocqueville too predicted that self-centeredness and egotism would be “democracy’s temptation.”

Four out of five bananas, absoloodle.

For brain candy, I’m now inhaling “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” which couldn’t be more appropriate to read with this week’s news of Bhutto’s murder. It is about women in Afghanistan and how completely and totally crazy life is under their changing politics in the last 30 years. Khaled Hosseini had me at “Kite Runner,” but he may have just made me a fanatic. So far, four out of five bananas. {And I don’t just through those bananas around mamsy pansy.}

If you are looking for a great movie, see Juno. Loved it. An interesting, exceptionally violent and mildly confusing movie? No Country for Old Men. I’ve got to find the book now, the film bothered me so. This weekend I hope to see Kite Runner and I am Legend.

The television writers may be on strike, but I’m not crying. Instead, I’m curled up with a cup of tea and a new quilt, without a to do list, happily enjoying cleaning up the neglected book shelves in my studio and watching the dust gather on my television.

11 Replies to “Being the Bee”

  1. That sounds like a very interesting book! But did you see the price on Amazon? Whoa! Unfortunately my library doesn’t have it, darn. The bit about the bees was giving me the willies, so perhaps it’s for the best. I don’t think I could be a bee!

  2. I am currently reading PILLARS OF THE EARTH and loving it. Soooo good. Haven’t read the other you recommended but I have KITE RUNNER and plan to start on it soon.

    Glad you’re enjoying your mini-vacay. There really isn’t much better than curling up with a good book.


  3. Thank you for your book suggestions/reviews. I have a giant stack beside my bed beckoning me and I think I’ll stop trying to do a gazillion things and just read for awhile.

    I have a new “green” project tutorial I’m posting tomorrow. It’s easy to do and has a practical purpose to it.

  4. don’t rush to “I am Legend” it has a lot of loose ends that annoyed me.. personally if I was in abandoned New York I would be spending alot more time in the stores and less in the lab! 🙂

  5. Books:
    I was just thinking today that I would like to read more books/articles that teach me about the state of humanity; I want to be more educated on social and environmental issues (you came to mind as a resource for titles!). Most of my reading consists of reading children’s books to my 3 kiddos. It’s time to get back into reading for me! Thanks for your rec’s!

    I don’t go see them often but just went to see “I Am Legend” with my husband on Friday. All I can say is that it was way too scary for this mommy! I just about walked out because I was so bothered. I’m not sure if anyone else felt the same way, but my reaction was probably from, again, being a mommy and having my day filled with cute stories and children’s shows. I must say, though, that I love being “mommy” even if I don’t get much reading done and movies scare me! 🙂

  6. TH and I watched “I Am Legend” last night and both had nightmares about it. It was a pretty disturbing film because it’s not too unrealistic. Too scary to think about. 🙁

    I really want to see “Juno”. I hope it comes over to France someday.

    I hope you’re having a great holiday season!

  7. just finished Water for Elephants and now deeply into the Golden Compass. I wanted to read it before I see movie. Don’t get to the movies often, but next on the list will be Juno. You’re the 4th person to recommend it! Back to the couch with my tea and book, too!

  8. A few comments:

    1. What’s the deal with that book being over $100!?!? I am checking my library now.
    2. Juno was amazing; my wife and I both cried and laughed and had a lot to talk about afterwards!
    3. I’m not seeing No Country for Old Men until I read the book; and I am excited about it.
    4. Everyone I know of (and have read) hated I Am Legend. But, I really liked it. It was very disturbing, but very good. Something that made it so good for me though was my utter lack of expectation. So, take that for what its worth.

  9. I agree with Emily about I am Legend. It not being completely out of the realm of reality is what scared me. But having said that, and that it scared the crap out me..I thought it was a great movie. I kind of liked that there were loose ends. It almost adds to the general feeling about the movie..

    I cannot wait to see Juno. I didn’t think it was out yet though! Yeah!

  10. I loved reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, my sil married a muslim man and it just touches my heart in so many ways.

    Hope you had a great New Years Eve!

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