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A New Dance, A New Day

At the still point of the turning world …. there the dance is … and there is only the dance.

From Burnt Norton, by TS Eliot

The queen’s procession around the hive, after Gerstung

Bees dance.

The queen bee dances, rather cosmically, as shown above, and worker bees dance when they return to the hive. They tell the story of the flowers they have visited. Bees visit flowers to receive life, in the form of food, and to give life, in the form of pollination. Dance contains the key to life for the hive and its surroundings. The flowers that bear food today are not the same as the flowers that will bear food tomorrow. So the workers dance, and the story the dance encodes changes day to day.

People dance too.

Most such dances tell stories, sometimes overtly and sometimes covertly. As with the bee, the stories reflect the dancers’ place in the world. Unlike the bee, however, our dances, our stories, do not adjust to the world on a daily basis. The same dance stays with us for years, often throughout our lives. This is fine as long as the world has not changed in the meantime. But what happens when the world has changed and the story in the dance no longer applies? Or, maybe, the story never applied in the first place. Maybe it was always false. False stories are not just misleading, they can be dangerous, can lead to wrong actions.

Take one of the stories widely promulgated within our society, the one that says that happiness depends on consuming in ever increasing amounts. This is a story that was never true, yet we dance to its tune every day. While the world was large and we were small, that did not matter too much. But now, we are large and the world is small, and we are consuming it at an unsustainable rate. To continue to dance to the old tune is highly dangerous. Yet we do, because the tune is there and nobody has changed it for a different one.

If we were bees, we would look at the world anew each day and ask: ‘What tune reflects the world today? What dance fits that tune?’ Then, and only then, would we dance. That dance would contain the key to life, both for us and the planet.

We have much to learn from the bees.

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