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Re: [beemonitoring] Social Bee-ings seminar - Poems

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  • Sam Droege
    Ann Yes, poems would be great to add to you class. They reach the metaphysical in all of us in a sneaky way, processing our feelings about things without us
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 8, 2012

      Yes, poems would be great to add to you class.  They reach the metaphysical in all of us in a sneaky way, processing our feelings about things without us knowing it.

      I would say that almost any nature poet worth their salt has dealt with the split between man and nature, between duality and oneness.

      Mary Oliver is one of my favorites and a great interpreter of nature and our experience in nature...here is a good one

      When I Am Among the Trees

      When I am among the trees,
      especially the willows and the honey locust,
      equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
      they give off such hints of gladness.
      I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

      I am so distant from the hope of myself,
      in which I have goodness, and discernment,
      and never hurry through the world
      but walk slowly, and bow often.

      Around me the trees stir in their leaves
      and call out, "Stay awhile."
      The light flows from their branches.

      And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
      "and you too have come
      into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
      with light, and to shine." 

      - Mary Oliver

      Emily Dickinson was no fan of the natural historians of her time and preferred the direct observation and relationship rather than that of capture and study.  She would have been an interesting correspondent on the topic of animal names or names for anything given, as an example the poem below

      "Arcturus" is his other name—.  
      I'd rather call him "Star."
      It's very mean of Science
      To go and interfere!

      I slew a worm the other day—
      A "Savant" passing by
      Murmured "Resurgam"—"Centipede"!
      "Oh Lord—how frail are we"!

      I pull a flower from the woods—
      A monster with a glass
      Computes the stamens in a breath—
      And has her in a "class"!

      Whereas I took the Butterfly
      Aforetime in my hat—
      He sits erect in "Cabinets"—
      The Clover bells forgot.

      What once was "Heaven"
      Is "Zenith" now—
      Where I proposed to go
      When Time's brief masquerade was done
      Is mapped and charted too.

      What if the poles should frisk about
      And stand upon their heads!
      I hope I'm ready for "the worst"—
      Whatever prank betides!

      Perhaps the "Kingdom of Heaven's" changed—
      I hope the "Children" there Won't be "new fashioned" when I come—
      And laugh at me—and stare—

      I hope the Father in the skies
      Will lift his little girl—
      Old fashioned—naught—everything—
      Over the stile of "Pearl."

      - Emily Dickinson

      On of my favorites is a grand tongue in cheek meeting of "nature" and "man" by Barrington, even more relevant today with the addition of electronic distractions

      "I Met a Lady in the Wood"

      I met a lady in the wood.
         No mortal maid, I knew, was she;
      She was no thing of flesh and blood,
         No child of human ancestry.

      Her beauty held my eyes in thrall.
         I spoke to her sweet words, soft-toned.
      She answered me no word at all,
         But only looked at me and moaned. 

      I spoke to her about Exchange,
         Of Sterling and its recent rise.
      The subject was beyond her range;
         She stared at me with haunting eyes. 

      I touched upon the price of Rye
         And its effect upon the Pound.
      She walked beside me silently,
         Like one that treads on charméd ground.

      She witched me with her elfin grace.
         I spoke of Wages and the Dole
      And briefly sketched for her the case
         For International Control.

      She gazed upon me as I talked;
         Some elfin thing she seemed to be.
      I knew her, by the way she walked,
         A creature of the Faëry.

      Through green and leafy glades we went,
         Knee-deep among the dewy ferns;
      I touched upon the Law of Rent
         And of Diminishing Returns.

      And, as we wandered through the wood
         Mid oaks and elm-tree boles rotund,
      Explained to her as best I could
         The workings of a Sinking Fund.

      I said that Rubber was depressed
         By recent rumours from Malay.
      She only moaned and beat her breast
         And cried aloud, 'Alack-a-day!'

      I said my brokers had foreseen
         A rise in Oil, and asked her view
      As to the trend of Margarine,
         She only answered 'Willaloo!'

      I took her to a green-lit glade
         Where tall trees twined their branches high
      And a moss-muted streamlet made
         Unmeditating melody;

      And there I paused awhile; and there
         I offered her my heart and hand,
      And bade her take me in her care
         To dwell with her in Fairyland.

      I said I was a Whale-oil King,
         With gold and goods and gear in plenty.
      She said she was a Mrs. Byng
         And had a family of twenty.

      She turned and left me where I stood.
         While round her elfin pipes were fluting
      She walked away into the wood,
         And I walked home to Lower Tooting.

                -- Patrick Barrington

      The Asian philosophies attempt to heal our splits with nature, but it remains a theme that is represented over and over in both short and long poems

      Woodcutters and fishermen know just how to use things.
      What would they do with fancy chairs and meditation platforms?
      In straw sandals and with a bamboo staff, I roam three
      thousand worlds,
      Dwelling by the water, feasting on the wind, year after year.

      Or Rumi, perhaps getting a little too close to what it is we as scientists do with nature

      Excuse my wandering.
      How can one be orderly with this?
      It's like counting leaves in a garden,
      along with the sound notes of partridges,
      and crows.
      Sometimes organization
      and computation become absurd.

      Bill Holm wrote an entire book of poems on Boxelder bugs and those poems chase many themes along these lines.  He had students compose poems about them too, which might be a good "homework" assignment

      Poets and Scientists Find Boxelder Bugs
      Useful for Both Metaphor and Experiment

      Crush a boxelder bug.
      After the little snap
      a tiny liquid drop
      the color of honey comes
      out on your thumb.
      The boxelder bug does not
      hear this sound.
      The red racing stripes on 
      his black back, like decorated 
      running shoes, finally don't
      run anywhere, anymore.
      You, on the other hand, had done
      what your life prepared you for:
      kill something useless and innocent,
      and try to find some beauty in it.
                   Bill Holm

      Gary Snyder on the futility of modern life

      Eating a sandwich
      At work in the woods,

      As a doe nibbles buckbrush in snow
      Watching each other,
      chewing together.

      A Bomber from Beale
      over the clouds,
      Fills the sky with a roar.

      She lifts head, listens,
      Waits till the sound has gone by.

      So do I.

      - Gary Snyder

      And from earlier times Hopkins

      God's Grandeur

      The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
      It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
      It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
      Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
      Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
      And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
      And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
      Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

      And for all this, nature is never spent;
      There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
      And though the last lights off the black West went
      Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
      Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
      World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

      - Gerard Manley Hopkins

      Similarly Thoreau was constantly at a loss in his struggles between life in society and life in Nature

      The Inward Morning

                Packed in my mind lie all the clothes
                     Which outward nature wears,
                And in its fashion's hourly change
                     It all things else repairs

            -Henry David Thoreau 

      And so it goes that the poets and scientists keep dipping back into the endless well of Nature


      Inebriate of air am I,
      And debauchee of dew,
      Reeling, through endless summer days,
      From inns of molten blue.
           - Dickinson

      From:Ann Fraser <Ann.Fraser@...>
      To:"beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com" <beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com>
      Date:09/06/2012 09:25 PM
      Subject:[beemonitoring] Social Bee-ings seminar - content suggestions
      Sent by:beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com

      Now for some thing completely different (from the most recent common name discussion at least) – I am planning a writing/discussion intensive first-year seminar at our college (Kalamazoo College, MI) titled “Social Bee-ings”.  My course description reads:  

      “Honeybees and humans are supremely social. But what does it mean to be social? Why are some species social while others are solitary? Do social group members work for the common good or to fulfill selfish interests? Perhaps they can do both, but what happens when these goals conflict – how is social order maintained? We will explore the origins and maintenance of social living across the animal kingdom and ask to what extent human societies represent larger scale models of other animal societies -- insects and non-human primates in particular -- and to what extent humans are unique.  We will explore the political, economic, biological, cultural, sociological and philosophical elements of social life through a variety of media and genres.  In doing so, we will inevitably explore the human condition.”

      Writing this by the deadline was like writing an abstract for a meeting.  You haven’t done the research yet, so who knows what the results will be – but you have to say something that sounds plausible.  In the case of this seminar, I hadn’t actually designed the particulars for the course when I wrote it, so I’m only now filling in the readings.  I have some texts planned but am appealing to this group for additional insightful suggestions.

      Sam Droege, I know you have lots of great poems in your larder.  Any come to mind that might make for great dissection and discussion related to my seminar topic?  Below is some ideas I plan to pursue:

      James T. Costa (2006). The Other Insect Societies: Reconsidering the Insect Sociality Paradigm. (excerpts from this to explore how the adherence to the definition of eusociality has limited our appreciation of insect sociality).  I also plan to use his essay in the Proc. of the American Philosophical Society titled Scale models? What insect societies teach us about ourselves.  This is a wonderful paper that notes how our own world view clouds our observation and description of nature.
      Related to this second essay, I have found the book by Diane Rodgers titled Debugging the Link between Social Theory and Social Insects an interesting read.  Rodgers is a sociologist who examines how entomologists and sociologists have borrowed from one another when describing social phenomena, and how this leads to a reification of one’s own beliefs.
      With these, and other texts I hope to help students understand how even scientists are not purely objective in their observation and description of nature and to think about how this applies more broadly to all we encounter in life.

      A second theme I plan to explore is the origins and maintenance of sociality.  Here I will use readings from the popular press and peer-reviewed literature on the various paths to cooperation (mutualism, reciprocity, kin selection and more recently group selection) and have us consider how these various paths play a role in our daily behavior – through conscious or unconscious means.

      Ultimately, I plan to move on to human behavior and the human condition.  Are we unique, and if so, what makes us unique?   How do human societies differ from insect societies?  Are insects automatons -  genetically programmed to act instinctively whereas humans are thinking, reasoning creatures who consciously alter their behavior in accordance with conditions?

      I would appreciate this group’s suggestions on interesting and thought-provoking readings or other media that might mesh with my described course.  My goal is to get students thinking critically and cross-culturally and to help them develop good communication skills through discussing and writing about the topics we explore.  

      Ann Fraser
      Associate Professor, Biology
      Kalamazoo College, MI


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