Unique Capabilities

Brian Bystedt

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The Existentialist

As Rene Descartes, French Philosopher, stated, “I think, therefore I am.” Take for instance the bee…the beehive. To bee or not to bee? Are we existentialists? After all, “everything is relative.” Why not take a look at the beehive as compared to our human existence?

The beehive is essentially based on a design model which supports optimum balance between survivorship and sustainability of the hive (nest). From its hexagonal prismatic cell design allowing the high packing density, maximum utilization of resources (wax) and fundamental utility (multiple uses), it is one of nature’s most secure / organizational designs. Generally limited in size / population, it is an efficient and successful model often and easily replicated. Each hive is a complete and autonomous community. Once the hive reaches a certain size, a queen and a number of workers swarm off to start the whole process again and again. While the beehive is optimum for bee survival, its self-limiting nature and purpose does not support any sense of growth, (meaning size of the hive or further evolution), not that growth or evolution is the panacea for all things. As for individualism, collective purpose reigns.

It is believed that a language can structure how one thinks. Perhaps how we organize or structure our communities defines us as individuals, our purpose, our journey. For the majority of human existence, we organized ourselves as tribes; small autonomous groups with life primarily predicated to surviving; highly replicable, highly mobile and most likely simply structured, much like the beehive. Little time for individualism, but without question, one knew his or her role / purpose. In time, human ingenuity domesticated crops and animals thus creating agriculture…stability.  As agriculture became integrated into the human society, the birth of community took hold.  We humans left our tribes behind as hunters / gatherers, freeing up human resources (thought, time and energy) which allowed for expansion of human capabilities, specialization and ultimately the creation of culture. This expansion of specialization through growth perpetuated into greater creativity, more free time and larger communities as intended. Unlike the beehive, as we have transitioned from tribes to creating complex organizations and cities, it seems in many ways we also traded off such things as autonomy and self-expression for seemingly something greater, higher degrees of specialization, etc. Unfortunately, associated with this quest came greater need for growth, materialism and consumerism.

“Intrigue” by Brian Bystedt. 600-900 Prehistoric petroglyph

Consequently,  greater dependencies, detachment  and general decline in the sense of belonging resulted, (not to mention seemingly loss of individualism, collective responsibility and purpose.) Unlike most of nature’s creations, growth and accumulation appear to dominate the human experience, and without some sense of self-control or limits, we seemingly are challenging our existence, minimally our sense of self. Perhaps we need to rethink the definition of community and its goals…what should it look like…be? It is easy to see in our technologically-driven culture and ever-expanding cities with the foreboding rush to move, that we have a hard time seeing how any of us fit into the collective human equation no less our own experience. While some attributes of the hive / tribe are to be admired, so are many attributes of our modern society, perhaps however, we need to stop and think about where are we going…our destination, more specifically what it means to be human…our journey…our community.

Each of us has certain talents and capabilities, perhaps undiscovered, that makes us each unique and if realized… more self-expressed…more fulfilled…happier. But do we allow it to happen, do we have the time, does our culture enable it to happen? Seemingly it appears that the “faster we go the behinder we get.” With the age of automation and ultimately artificial intelligence around the corner, it seems we are rushing to replace ourselves or minimally dilute our human experiences, our connections to ourselves as well as others. Can anyone or a society be truly whole if separated from its parts? Maybe instead of a community defining the roles of its individuals, perhaps the collective contribution of its people should redefine the community? Unlike most creatures in nature relegated to the covenants of their genes, we additionally have domain over our environment, our priorities, our direction…good and bad.

Fortunately, we are not bees and don’t live in a hive; however, having the ability to fly would be awesome. Being human, we do have choices, we do have time, we do have abilities for self-determination and fulfillment, but …..

Perhaps each of us needs to discover the person inside of us, our creative genius, those components that define us. It was once said that our purpose is to be the greatest expression of ourselves. Exactly what does that mean? It is called our journey.

Maybe somewhere between the daily pursuit of surviving, the push for growth and the accumulation of the “stuff” we need, we need to redefine and incorporate what the human experience is all about. As a road sign in Montana once stated (long ago), “Lost? Keep going, you are making good time anyway.” Time to check the map! Think…be an existentialist!

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