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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Superstition and Prayer

Every time I sit out on my deck, a bee comes to visit me.

My chair in the living room is right in front of the sliding glass door that looks out onto the deck by the water. I watch as birds fly by. I love it when the Mallards and Canada Geese swim in front of our home. Occasionally, I see a big fat fly buzzing at the screen. A wasp or two will make an appearance. But, near as I can tell, no bees.

Not until I go out onto the deck and sit in my chair. All of a sudden, from out of seemingly nowhere, comes the bee.

What's disconcerting about this visit is that the bee seems to be staring right at me.

He (or she - I think it may be a she), seems to stand - or fly - perfectly still. About three or four feet from where I'm sitting. Maybe a little side to side motion every once in a while, but mostly, just there. In front of me. Staring at me.

Creeps me out.

I'm not sure if I look like a flower or a predator.

I've tried to do a little research about what bees see. The one helpful thing I've learned is that bees see things almost five times faster than humans.

They also see in color, allowing them to find flowers vs. shrubs. Apparently, they like red and yellow best, probably because they are easier to see. They aren't as attracted to green, unless there are colors on the green.

Yes, I was wearing something green. No other color. Just green. So, this bee shouldn't be so interested in me, right? But s/he is. Very.

As I often do, I turned to mythology for some clues. I learned the Kalahari Desert's San people tell of a bee that carried a mantis across a river. The exhausted bee left the mantis on a floating flower but planted a seed in the mantis's body before it died. The seed grew to become the first human.

In many cultures, they are seen as messengers from the Gods.  The Homeric Hymn to Apollo acknowledges that Apollo's gift of prophecy first came to him from three bee maidens, usually identified with the Thriae. The Thriae was a trinity of pre-Hellenic Aegean bee goddesses.

And, of course, honey is known by many as being the nectar of the Gods. 

I was considering all these things and wondering what they meant when I got a text message from one of our kids. She had been away on a business trip where the outcome was uncertain, came home and found that one of her mirrors had fallen off the wall and was shattered on the floor.

"What do you think that means?" she asked.

I burst out laughing and wrote, "It means what you want it to mean."

She wrote back about 15 minutes later with the message that her boyfriend had apparently moved the mirror to a place that was, admittedly, better suited but not as secure and it fell.

"Apparently, it means that my boyfriend is going to have seven years of bad luck for breaking my mirror," she wrote.

I have no doubt.

I could hear Stevie Wonder's song in the backgound:
Very superstitious, writing's on the wall
Very superstitious, ladders bout' to fall
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past

When you believe in things that you don't understand
Then you suffer
Superstition ain't the way
Which got me to wondering about prayer chains. You know, they abound in many churches. The idea, I suppose, is that if you get enough people praying the same thing you increase your chances of catching God's ear and changing the outcome.

At least, I think that's what some people think.  Or, maybe they become part of a prayer chain because it helps not to feel quite so hopeless and helpless. "At least, I can pray."

I know I have been asked to pray for people who have prefaced their request with, "I'm asking you because you're a priest and you have God's ear."

I usually answer, "I will pray for you but you have to know that I am not any closer to God's ear than you are." I say that because I believe it. I don't believe that priests are talismans. Hopefully, we live a dedicated life of prayer, but I don't think that comes with any guarantees.

I pray not because I believe I can change anything. Rather, I pray because it changes me. It makes me more thoughtful of and compassionate towards the sufferings of others.

I would hope that is the reason people participate in prayer chains. Not because they are spiritually arrogant enough to think they can change outcomes, but because, in praying, they are witnessing to the suffering of another, offering hope and compassion and nourishment for the soul.

It's sort of like bees in a hive, I suppose. Our prayers are like gathered pollen which turns into a nectar for the soul, sweeter than fine honey.

Maybe that's the 'message' that bee was trying to give me this morning. To work harder - be more industrious - in my prayer life.

Then again, maybe it was just a bee, doing what bees do.

Just in case, I'll throw some salt over my left shoulder. Or, is it my right?

Maybe I'll just go spend some time in meditation instead. But, not on the deck where that bee will come and stare at me.

Creeps me out.


Ann said...

Definitely a girl bee - the boys stay in the hive lazing around and impregnating the Queen.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hmmm.... then she must have been sizing up my house to build a hive. I definitely felt like she wanted me to disappear.

Elaine C. said...

I have a bee who lives in the wood of my balcony who comes near when I am outside. But that bee is more interested in getting home, than in me.

Anonymous said...

Eat some garlic. The bees do not like the smell. Plant some lemon grass by the deck to keep those bad Mosquitos away too.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to an organic gardening guide. It indicates you should place egg shells on the ground to attract birds that will eat the ground bees. It also discusses the use of garlic.

Good luck.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Elaine C - The more I think about it, the more I think some of my friends are right: This is probably a carpenter bee who wants my deck, not me. I think s/he is staring me down in order to claim the territory.

I know it sounds silly, but there's a real sense of aggression and hostility from this bee.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Maria - I thought garlic was only protection against vampires (LOL). I think I'll go to my health food store and get a whole bunch of garlic and hang in on my deck. The bee has not made an appearance today. It's bright and sunny but pretty windy on the water today. Must not be easy to fly - or torment people - when the wind is blowing.