Bees, Slime & The Present Human Dilemma

Imagine for a moment that I asked you to take part in two experiments. In the first experiment you are confronted by a Y-maze giving you the option to go down two opposite corridors. Before you enter the maze you see a blue sign at the entrance. Previously you were told that the color blue signified a reward. Once you entered the Y-maze at the end of each corridor you find two doors, one blue and the other yellow. Knowing that blue signifies a reward you decide to enter that door first. Congratulations you have successfully matched the color at the entrance, with the same color on the door. Now for the second experiment. Imagine that you have been placed in a standard maze, the kind with dead ends and only one possible exit. At the exit you are told a fantastic dinner awaits you as a reward if you work out the maze. Naturally you do what ever it takes to find that exit. Again congratulations and enjoy the feast!

We are Not the Only Intelligence

We can agree that both of these experiments wouldn’t be hard for a human being to figure out. Humans after all are imbued with intelligence.

However, what if I told you that both of the above ‘experiments’ were solved by non-human species. That’s right the first was solved by bees showing they can think and handle abstract concepts. The second experiment was solved by a charismatic slime mold called Physarum or popularly known as "the blob"—which can learn, make decisions, and go through mazes without a brain. Clearly both show intelligence, or at least how we think of intelligence in every day experience.

However, they are not the only non-humans to show signs of intelligence. For example prairie dogs who have brains the size of grapes, use a sophisticated form of verbal communication involving high pitched chirps to describe the world around them. They can describe intruders according to species size, shape, speed, etc.

I highlight the above as a taster of the growing recognition that intelligence can no longer simply be ascribed to human beings. This is important because for far to long we have been told that we are the only true intelligent inhabitants on this planet. Everything else is either primal or primitive. It’s this state of hubris—the anthropocentric view that we are the most important life form in existence on Earth—that has created the global environmental destruction we now all face.

Modern Civilized People Are Increasingly Unhappy

For all that we have gained in the West, and for all that civilization has promised, most people are far from happy. For instance a recent (August 2019) nationwide survey in the UK found that 89% of 16-29 year olds claim that their lives are ‘meaningless’ (that's the word they actually used). The average overall was 80% for all age groups. Over 60s do the best with only 55% reporting that their lives are meaningless.

Just walk into any brick and mortar bookshop (or now online) and you will find row upon row of self-help books promising happiness, managing stress (an epidemic in its own right), a search for meaning and personal mastery. Most who are prolific readers of this self-help genre if honest, will tell you that after all that reading they still aren’t any happier. I believe both the self help books and subsequent courses, often fall short in helping us discover true ‘happiness.’

Why?

Because they ascribe to a way of telling us how to become happy, but situated within the very problem that’s causing the unhappiness in the first place. In other words modern society, the so called civilized world itself.

As spiritual teacher Krishnamurti reminds us: “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Without exception all the books and courses currently available on becoming more happy, managing stress, self-discovery and personal mastery center on being achieved (i.e., training us to be well-adjusted to) within the capitalistic, materialistic society we now find ourselves in. In my opinion this is exactly why reading these books, taking those courses or listening to motivational experts so often fail. Taking a page from Krishnamurti, each of these programs are attempting to make us healthy and well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. As such all these programs offer a band aid and not a lasting solution. All are therefore destined to fail!

We all need to start waking up to the fact that while many good things have come about because of progress, science et al. It will never be able to replace what we all need—a deep connection to spirit, that cannot be quantified, measured or reverse engineered.

Is There a Solution?

Through my own personal practice and research I have discovered that the answer to lasting fulfillment lies in reintegrating ourselves back into the natural wisdom and rhythm of the world. In order to achieve this we need to purposively make an internal shift and embody a largely forgotten way—at least for modern humans—of being in the world. This starts by acknowledging as many ancient wisdom traditions have always known, that we are not separate to the Earth, to Gaia. Yes, we are intelligent, but so are the bees, the slim mold, the trees, rivers and all that inhabits our beautiful planet. We are not separate but one and all is intelligence if you willing to change your perspective.

As Chief Seattle reminds us:

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Or less poetic, and more pragmatic by Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson:

“We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.”

Beyond Connection

Beyond acknowledging that we are part of and not separate to all that exists on this planet, we need to return and honor ancestral wisdom. This requires going back to a sensibility where our ancestors lived in harmony with nature.

I get it that it’s not possible for most of us to return to a lifeway of a hunter-gatherer, but that doesn’t mean that what first people have to teach us is any less important. In fact as I have discovered, by integrating their lifeway principles into my own life, I have been able to heal not only from my childhood trauma, but equally be more successful at dealing with a world that seems to care little that I exist. The reality is that the modern world sees all of us as commodities to be strip minded for its own ends, which is to perpetuate consumption at any cost (and mostly this is done at a cost to our health).

It’s these ancestral lessons that I teach in my Awakening the Human Animal Retreat. It is these lessons that will allow you to Unlock your Instinct {Code}. Some of the lessons include how First People view mental wellness. For example for First People wellness was and is holistic, encompassing a state of balance with family, community and the larger environment (i.e., the connection to the natural world). As a side note here: it’s my belief that the reason so many First People now suffer with mental illness is precisely because they are being forced into a lifeway of modernity, which itself is the catalyst for mental illness that we see so much of today. Historically, and before the interference from colonialism, First People suffered far less with mental illness as they do today in the modern world. The reason for this was that First People have a holistic traditional psychological system and healing practices, often based in spirituality, ceremony and ritual.

The truth is, we now live in a time where information is ubiquitous, but wisdom is in short supply. Ideologies consume the modern landscape but meaning is scarce. People are burnt out. We clearly need a new way to show up both in the world and our lives.

But maybe, just maybe the story we need to tell isn’t a new one, but rather an ancient story that is now desperately needed to be experienced. I believe if we can bring this ancient story to light, learn to integrate it back into our modern experience we can find the rhythm of living an exceptional life most of us seem to be missing. In turn, it will equip us with the wisdom to change the destructive path we are on, and so that we can take our rightful place as care-keepers of the natural world — our Mother, teacher and spiritual muse.