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July 30, 2015


From billions of miles away we see a blurry image of Pluto: a dark, unknown thing. The flows of lighter material over dark seem, sort of, maybe like a heart. Pluto has a heart.

A latte has swirls of steamed milk that look like a butterfly, a dog, Madonna (either one).

Efflorescence, or dirt or erosion reveals the face of Jesus in a building face, or a carrot’s shape, or a bagel, or, or…

The see-er takes reality and gives it a meaning that has nothing to do with that reality, because we are hardwired to connect dots and make judgments: maybe to hunt or prevent being hunted, maybe to make sense of our ignorance.

A snake skeleton has tiny legs: its the missing link between – what? Tiny bone fragments make entire dinosaurs real for paleontologists.

Architects take bits of the designs they love, their own, others and confer legitimacy by fealty to visual clues that are applied -and illegitimacy to those who apply different clues.

Politicians and clerics repeat mantras of faith in sound bites like “justice”, “community”, “choice”, “life” as short hand verbal versions of the visual connections we all make: taking a tiny sample of reality: sound, visual or ideological and transfer that tiny truth into a much greater reality.

Last summer a wry, thoughtful man, about a decade my senior said plainly on our annual visit: “I have pancreatic cancer, I doubt I will be around more than 3 or 4 more months.” He looked unchanged (save down the 10 pounds he agonized over losing for the last decade).

He was undaunted: he was thinking that he had some time left to revel in a focus of his last years: bees. He was insistent that we had to see his hives. Of course we did. He then gave a 90 minute stream of observation that revealed the intricate evidence of extreme coordination that bees live.

The unfathomable level of communication, choreography and unified action lets thousands of bits of life act as a single entity.

It was not a coincidental swirl of latte, not a screen capture of material flow on the other side of the solar system: it was not interpretable: the hive has a hierarchy, order and set of amazingly effective protocols that make sense out of potential chaos.

In that way, the hive was the face of Jesus for my very secular friend: it showed, not in a snapshot, but in years and years of his observation, study and implementation how unnumbered organisms can connect.

Spiritual connection was not his agenda: but observable, factual connection without evident mechanisms was real, and he marveled in it. These mysteries in plain sight made a connection to realities beyond his time on earth, at least for me.

Humans need that sense there is more than us: and the good news is there is. Whether a thrill at a baby’s smile, the face of Mother Teresa in a piece of fruit, or in the unending repetitive patterns of extraordinary precision without discernible design, we see, and more importantly feel, that there are larger realities than our day-to-day.

My friend died, about when he said he thought he would. But his hives thrive. The plants they feed from grow. Most of those plants die in a few months, after the seeds the bees help create nestle in soil, waiting for spring. Life goes on, with or without seeing Jesus in a carrot.

Bee 2015 07 28

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