This week the arborists came and took down nearly a hundred trees from our property, all pine, mostly western white pine. The trees had been ravaged by the pine beetle, a modern day scourge of the intermountain west. The beetles are indigenous and have been here for thousands of years, but changes in climate have altered the equilibrium between the insects and the trees.  There are now enough frost free nights to allow time for two hatches of the beetles each year, instead of one. The second onslaught is too much for many of the trees, and now great parts of the west are no longer covered with green-needled living trees, but instead with dead trees, needles all brown.
 
In thinking about the changes, my thoughts turned from the pine beetles to our local native bees. Bees are social insects and most of us have read about their shared roles and duties. A lesser known fact is that a bee from a different nearby colony has a different chemical signature, as each colony possesses its own unique composition of hydrocarbons, creating a signature shared by all the bees in the colony. The bees from other colonies seem completely identical, but to a bee that is not the case. When bees stray to another colony they are usually attacked and destroyed, even if they had no ill intent. 
 
It seems that our own human  tribes have begun to share some of these characteristics, with shared social media information, different for each of our tribes, creating a colony of sorts, separated by distance, but united by the same information and beliefs. There is beginning to be a remarkable unanimity of thought within tribes, not allowing for any variation. A brilliant college professor who doesn’t properly use pronouns is quickly banished from campus through social media. Just the same, a conservative politician who expresses outlying opinions about climate change is quickly primaried out of office, as word of his heresy spreads through the online feeds.
 
Of course many people have written about this phenomenon, but one might also wonder if deeper changes might not await us. As we become less open minded, almost more insect-like in how we relate to each other, do other attributes also change? Could there eventually be a diminishment in a human beings ability to strive to experience a relationship with the divine?  It seems at first glance that any connection between what is going on socially in our world and the age old quest to understand the meaning and purpose of existence is entirely unrelated. But perhaps not. If one stops questioning in life, does the ability to ask the larger questions also eventually diminish? These ageless questions, the types of questions to be approached not only by thought, but through all of oneself, have been a beacon for thousands of years. Is there something about the inner structure of a human being that allows this? We are in the dark here. 
 
“First, do no harm.”
 
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