catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 6 :: 2008.03.21 — 2008.04.04


80-degree community

On one of Pittsburgh’s many dreary, cold winter days I was staffing the front desk of the art center, directing the people who stopped in—that is, once they regained enough feeling in their fingers to unbutton their bulky winter coats. On this particular day I was especially thankful for the two sets of double doors, which help mitigate some of winter’s bitter blast. This season has seemed to be especially long and brutal.

As I roasted my booted feet next to the space heater beneath the desk, my co-worker, Josh, came in from outside. He stomped the snow from his boots and we wondered out loud together as to when the weather would ever find a new hobby. Remembering that he keeps bees at his house, I asked him if they were even still around. He informed me that they were handling the winter better than I was, and I figured that they must migrate toward more balmy weather. Clearly the bees are living the life that God intended for us, I thought: buzzing around naked in the land of warm temperatures and flowing honey.

I was shocked to learn that this was not the case. He explained to me that bees remain in their outdoor hives throughout the winter season. I view their feat as no minor miracle, yet what I find most fascinating is their instinct to function together as a unit for survival. By huddling together around the queen, they each contribute their individual bit of warmth and circulate within and throughout the bee-ball. Come January, they heat things up beyond 80 degrees so that the queen can begin laying eggs for the coming spring. The heat generated throughout the hive will even melt off snow.

As Josh imparted this phenomenon, I marveled at such a thought, and simultaneously realized that I should have paid more attention that day in science class. Since our discussion, these bees have become for me a beautiful depiction of what I believe community ought to look like. Living with seven other people in a diverse area of Pittsburgh’s East End, I figured I had a reasonable grasp on community engagement, and a sensible understanding of monasticism. The bees, however, have managed to raise the bar. It’s quite humbling to realize that insects seem to have it more together than I do. (I also happen to be jealous of their ability to fly, but I’ll save that for another article.) Their keen instinct to work together makes me wonder what’s really going on inside the hive. If they are that smart, perhaps I should suspect some outrageous collaborative plotting for the grand take-over of southwestern Pennsylvania. But in reality, I truly believe that God gave us the bees not just for honey, or farming, or children’s Halloween costumes, but to provide for us a beautiful example to follow.

The bees are familiar with sacrifice and sharing demanded by survival as they take turns moving within this cluster. If they don’t stick together, they will surely die. Now that seems pretty dramatic in terms of humanity, but I do think that disengagement can lead to death of some sort, however spiritual or metaphorical. Either way, life is certainly lacking and in most ways far more problematic without the gift of one another. As Christ’s body, we become a dynamic cooperative system, which functions as a single living organism in submission to a greater whole. For example, the mouth would make an awkward mess of itself without the hand to guide its food.

As followers of Christ working together in community as a unit we, too, can emit that subtle force of heat and melt the cold of this world. And the honey will be that much sweeter when tasted together.

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