The Bee is Something Else Entirely
Man’s comprehension of the world is the dining room set’s comprehension of the dinner party. A searing deluge of sense perception and qualia continuously assaults our mind as a multiplicity of narratives and explications quarrel in competition to provide just the faintest hint of clarity. Our limited capacity provides but a muddied and tangled whirl of confusion. We stab along; at least there’s pizza.
Similar to man’s understanding of the higher order of things is the historian’s understanding of the animating force and ultimate purpose of her subject. Tolstoy supports this view today with his analogy of the bee. To a flower the bee means one thing. To a child the bee means another. And to a seasoned beekeeper the bee is something else entirely. “The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes,” he writes, “the more obvious it becomes that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension.”
What edification, then, for those shrouded in Māyā, mislaid in materiality?We’ve seen the discomfort of those who have strived vainly for comprehension. Recall the melancholic struggle of Prince Andrei to gain understanding through the intellect. Remember Pierre’s wild indulgence of passion in search of the same. Look now at the misguided historians. Each meets the world in a state of befuddlement. The only secure retreat seems to be the redoubt of the calm and fortified mind. Go there.
From Maximus I learned self-government, and not to be led aside by anything; and cheerfulness in all circumstances, as well as in illness.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations