Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Beekeeping for All

UPDATED: Added link to free download of Warre's book.

I've just begun reading Abbe Warre's Beekeeping for All (which you can download for free) , and I've been hooked from page 1. I love, love, love how he begins his work.Why keep bees at all? What is the purpose of this activity? He concludes that honey is the purpose. But, he writes:

     It is also worth noting that beekeeping is a fascinating activity and consequently rests both mind and body.
     Furthermore, beekeeping is a moral activity, as far as it keeps one away from caf├ęs and low places and puts before the beekeeper an example of work, order and devotion to the common cause.
     Moreover, beekeeping is a pre-eminently healthy and beneficial activity, because it is most often done in the fresh air, in fine, sunny weather. For sunshine is the enemy of illness just as it is the master of vitality and vigour. Dr Paul Carton wrote: 'What is needed is to educate a generation in disliking alcohol, in despising meat, in distrusting sugar, in the joy and the great benefit of movement'.
     For the human being is a composite being. The body needs exercise without which it atrophies.The mind needs exercising too, otherwise it deteriorates. Intellectuals deteriorate physically. Manual workers, behind their machines, suffer intellectual deterioration.
     Working on the land is best suited to the needs of human beings. There, both mind and body play their part.
     But society needs its thinkers, its office workers and its machine operatives. Clearly these people cannot run farms at the same time. But in their leisure time (they must have some of it) they can be gardeners and beekeepers and at the same time satisfy their human needs.
     This work is better than all modern sports with their excesses, their promiscuity, their nudity.
     Thus if the French were to return to the land they would be more robust, more intelligent. And as the wise Engerand said, France would again become the land of balance where there would be neither the agitations, nor the collective follies that are so harmful to people; it would become again a land of restraint and clarity, of reason and wisdom, a country where it is good to live.
     And let us not forget the advice of Edmond About: 'The only eternal, everlasting and
inexhaustible capital is the earth'.
     Finally, one more important thing: the bees fertilise the flowers of the fruit trees. Apiculture thus contributes greatly to filling our fruit baskets. This reason alone should suffice to urge all those who have the smallest corner of orchard to take up beekeeping.

I like how Warre endorses beekeeping as an activity that benefits both body and mind since I've often found this true. The time I spend in the hive is the most zen experience I can think of. There is the pleasure of being in "fresh air, in fine, sunny weather," but there is also the pleasure of being able to set aside all my agitations. For those moments I am in the hive, I think of nothing else. Out of necessity, all my energy and mental focus are concentrated on the task at hand, and it's a relief to be able to tune out everything else. I always come away from the hive mentally refreshed and invigorated (sometimes, perplexed, too, but I suppose that's the flip side of intellectual stimulation).

Even more, I like how Warre presents beekeeping as a moral activity --The bees actually improve us by providing an amazing example of cooperation and devotion to a common cause. Personally, I don't know if I'm a better person as a result of keeping bees, but it's true that I'm certainly a humbler person and more in awe of the complexity of the world we live in. I've come to appreciate more the things that may seem insignificant.

While self-preservation should be sufficient reason for beekeeping, Warre mentions this reason as almost an afterthought.  Physical fitness, intellectual clarity, devotion to common social causes, abstention from excesses, and work -- these are the things that beekeeping provides, and according to Warre, there are the things that make a country "where it is good to live." Personally, I can't say that I disagree. Beekeeping, then, is elevated to a noble endeavor that builds more than just comb and produces more than honey. It builds a society and produces greatness.

Yes, Abbe, I agree. Everyone should have a hive.

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