When I was a kid, one of my favorite games was catching bees. Before calling me a bee maniac, let me give you a little bit of the context around this sentence.
I grew up in a communist country, in a small city near the mountains. You didn’t have much to do in a small city from Romania, especially under a communist regime. All kids had to go to the same state kindergarten because their parents didn’t have any time to spend with them. And that because they had to be away all day building socialism, of course.
Although a very rough place to be for a kid, with not much affection or tenderness around, (not to mention the strict discipline and the terror of not saying what you want, by fear of the political police) the communist kindergarten helped me a lot. At that time, it felt pretty bad, but, as bad as it was, it did have a lot of positives. For instance, I’m sure that my will to become self-supported immediately after high-school had a lot to do with those years. Also, my ability to survive in difficult conditions must have been built up somewhere there. But I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself now. Let’s get back to our bees.
So, under this rather gray background, any activity that stood up as being different, or at least colorful, left a very deep mark. Catching bees was one of these activities.
We used to take an empty plastic tube, the ones that were used to keep small pills of C vitamin, took out the small semi-transparent top (the tube was closed by applying a little bit of pressure) did a small hole in it and then went out hunting.
The outside playgrounds on the state kindergarten were surrounded by small bushes. I suppose the initial intention was to have a “live fence” around the playgrounds, but they were just bushes. We were slowly approaching those bushes, sensing the vibration of hundreds of small insects, slowly and gently, trying to spot a bee.
When we spotted it, we were carefully approaching from one part the top and from the other part the tube, trying to catch the bee in the middle, right into the tube.
If our moves were smooth, if we were close enough, if we were fast enough and, of course, lucky enough, every once in a while we ended up with a bee caught in our small vitamin C tube.
That moment was magic. I still remember the thrill of it. That small insect was caught only by our actions. We did this. I couldn’t find any comparison for that. I know it sounds dumb, but in our little grey universe, that dumb activity was the only way to prove our assertiveness. And, as incredible as it may sound, our capacity of enjoying life.
Releasing The Bee
We weren’t into killing insects. Hence the small hole in the tube, to keep the air flowing in. We were into catching up something difficult to catch. And potentially dangerous. Bees can sting the hell out of you, if you’re not careful.
The bees were buzzing inside the tubes for a few minutes, just enough for us to show them up to our colleagues. Oh, the moments we were finding out someone did catch a bee. The sudden aggregation of a human circle around you, the joy and admiration on the childish faces, the yelling and the joy. For milliseconds each bee catcher became a local hero.
After that, the bee had to be released back into the open. Releasing the bee was a very important part of the game. You couldn’t hold a bee forever in your vitamin C tube. You just couldn’t do this, it was against the rules. You had to go out and catch a new bee every day.
There were some kids who wouldn’t obey that rule. They were carrying their bees in their vitamin C tubes each and every day. In all honesty, those kids weren’t very popular. As a matter of fact, we used to make fun of them. “Is that the 100 year old bee in your tube?”. “Still sleeping together?”. “Are you married already?” Eventually, they had to release their bees too and get back into the game.
The Adult Perspective
One day, our parents spotted this game.
“What are you doing there kids?”, they asked.
“We are catching bees”, we answered.
“Oh, I see that, but what is the benefit of this game? Are you building a house for those bees?”
“Nope, we’re just catching bees.”
“Are you killing the bees? Oh, you want to clean the fence from insects?”
“Nope, we’re just playing.”
After we went like this for like ten minutes, we realized that they just couldn’t understand the game. For them, that bee had to have a meaning. Do something with it. Use it somehow.
For us, just catching the bee and releasing it back into the open was enough.
Oh, the thrill when someone was catching a big one! The joy on our faces and then the smooth and necessary releasing of the bee back into the open. Those were magic moments. Did I say that already? Yes, I did. But that’s ok. 🙂
I still catch bees these days. I still do things only for the thrill of it, without any immediate benefit. Or specific usage.
I support my friends if I can. I support other people if I can. I set up some goal and then reach it and then forget about it.
I make insane amounts of money and then release it back into the open, letting myself broke. And start again. And again.
Many of my friends don’t understand this. To be honest, I don’t really care. I may listen to their concerns, because, well, we’re friends, and that’s what friends are doing. But when it comes to that question: “So, you really don’t regret letting that bee fly away?”, I always answer “Nope, not a bit”.
Because, luckily, I still have that thrill inside. I still have the eagerness to pursue a new goal, the ability to reach it and the power to let it go after that.
Learning how to catch a bee and then how to release it back, as simple and dumb as it may seem, was one of the most important things I ever learned.
And, as long as I will still be able to do this without the smallest regret, I know I’ll be on the safe side.
Like a child.