Testing honeybees and humans

Contests unnerve me, perhaps because the word “tests” lurks inside them. I have won and lost, gleaned honorable mention and nothing. In a world of “good, better, best” and “bad, worse, worst,” I work best on my own terms and worst when comparing myself to others. Some thrive on competition; but, in the race for one-upmanship, there are more losers than winners. “You did your best” sounds hollow when failing a class or giving up a dream. Backup plans are not for wimps. Not being our first choice, they begin in disappointment. Life coach and therapist Martha Beck, writing in the June Oprah Magazine, says our society is suffering from a rampant disease. It is called FOMO — fear of missing out — a plague based on the lie that everyone else is doing more and being more than I can do or be. Beck points out that “practically every image you see on practically any screen is likely misleading.” Sooner or later every guru reaches the same conclusion: It is best to live in our own skin in the present. Perhaps the reasoning behind the biblical injunction, “Thou shalt not covet …” (Exodus 20:17), is for our own good. Talents are not always used the way we planned, but running life’s race against one another will not take us as far as running together.
If honeybees can be trained to find land mines, then humans can be motivated by other means than tests. Honeybees? It seems Croatia has a problem: Unexploded land mines terrorize and maim its citizens. Honeybees have an asset: a perfect sense of smell. Connect their hunt for food to the scent of the common explosive TNT, and they can locate hot bombs. A sugar solution rewards the bees; humans clear the minefields. In theory, this honeybee idea should work. Researchers find, however, that training the whole colony is harder than dealing with one bee. Going with the swarm instead of going to the food can cause them to miss the target. Sugarcoating has limitations. Inspiring humans requires “high concept.” That is a term growing in popularity in submission guidelines for writers, but even editors demanding high concept stories have trouble defining what they mean. A few of the things they name sound like what we all want for the good life: high entertainment, high originality, clear emotional focus. There is no higher concept than belief in God. If God exists, human contests and tests hold little significance unless they serve his purposes. In Bradford County, Florida, an atheist monument will soon be placed in the “free speech” area where they fought the placement of a current monument featuring the Ten Commandments. If God exists, that 1,500-pound granite bench, covered with quotes to blight the commandments upon which Western Civilization’s laws were based, is but a puny protest. I am not suggesting that we do away with contests and tests. I am suggesting that we not measure our worth by them. If we lose and must redirect our way, our backup plans may require more courage but yield greater results. That is a high concept only grasped if the highest of all, God, is in his place. Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together — side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer.

Contact her at lindadowning.com.