The Whole Book in 5 Minutes

“What’s the purpose of a honeybee?”

“Its purpose is to collect honey, of course!”

“Anything else?”

“Well, I suppose it's also to build and maintain its hive, tend to the larvae, etc.”

“How do you know that that is its purpose?”

“Well, all I have to do is to look at it! What it does all day, the structure of its body, and so on. It has a tube protruding out of its mouth and a storage sack to collect the honey. And as for the larvae and so on, scientists have studied that. They have also done experiments to see how they build the hive and maintain it, and so on. Once you learn about all that, everything becomes pretty obvious.”

“That’s all? Maybe I should clarify myself. What I really meant by ‘purpose’ was, what is their ‘greater purpose’?”

“Oh, I know what you mean! Everyone knows that they pollinate the garden. People are saying that without them the whole ecosystem could collapse! So that’s their greater purpose, of course!”

“Sure, but that wasn’t exactly what I was getting at. Isn’t ‘greater purpose’ supposed to come from some sort of a god or supernatural being? All your answers so far were simply based on observation and analysis. Surely that can’t tell us everything about purpose?”

“Well, do we really need anything more to find their greater purpose? What we already know about the bee and the ecosystem is sufficient to figure out what its smaller as well as greater purpose is. And isn't that quite meaningful already? What can be more meaningful than ensuring the long-term survival of not just itself and its hive, but also the entire ecosystem?”

“Hmmm.. Interesting. And I’m glad you brought up ‘meaning’. I was just about to ask you about that. What is the meaning of a bee’s life? What makes its life meaningful?”

“Well, we don’t know if bees understand concepts like meaning, but I suppose we can try to imagine what it could be. So, I suppose, for a bee, the meaning of life would be something like knowing its greater purpose and being totally on board with it? Knowing that its work helps it and its hive and even the garden survive and thrive? If I was a bee, I would find that quite meaningful.”

“I like that! Everything you said seems to make sense. So now I am wondering if we can also try to define what might give hope to a bee?”

“Hmm, I just realized something. The great thing about this way of thinking about purpose and meaning is that hope is already built into it!”


“We know that life is a process that started billions of years ago and has continued unbroken. It has spread and diversified in innumerable ways. It has faced serious challenges including severe climate changes, asteroid hits and geological upheavals in the past. In fact, this process of life looks almost impossible to root out once it has gotten started!”

“OK, but what has that got to do with hope?”

“Well, if a bee realizes that its life is an integral part of this process of expansion and enrichment of life, then it can easily find reasons for hope in that. Because this process has been through a lot and will very likely continue literally as long as the sun shines. Plus, may be if we ever become inter-planetary, I'm sure we will take bees along! We have such strong evidence of the continuation of the process of life, that we don't need to invent any feel-good stories for hope.”

“Sounds very logical and reasonable. And yet somehow awesome! You not only gave good answers but provided solid reasons for why those answers are, in fact, good. I love it! So let me ask you one more question.”

“Go ahead! I’m enjoying this.”

“Ok. If we want to find a human analog to what bees are or what they do all day, what would that be?”

“Hmm.. We have certainly heard the phrase 'worker-bees'."

"But they are more than just workers, right? They build complex things, maintain them and so on."

"Artisans, maybe? Or even engineers?”

“Hmm.. Can you elaborate?”

“Well, they do build some amazingly complex and resilient hives and they keep fixing them. Plus, they organize themselves into highly functional teams and have a strong, collaborative work ethic. This is exactly what engineers do. At least when they aren't slacking like we are right now!”

“Well, we are having seriously important philosophical conversations, aren't we? Engineers do that too!”

“Yes. But what does this have anything to do with the meaning and purpose stuff that you started with? And why are we talking about bees? How does any of this apply to people? Aren't we way more complex and demanding?”

“Sure. People are certainly a lot more complicated and demanding as you say. So, yes some of what we said here applies to us, but we need to go a lot deeper and broader and be more thorough with our analysis."

"Of course we do! So, what about that?"

"Umm... You’ll have to read my book to get into that! It will take a lot longer than 5 minutes.”

“Aha! I was wondering when you were going to shill your book!”

“Sorry about that! But you know…”

“Sure, I understand. And don’t worry. I'm already intrigued. I'm going to read it!”

“Great answer! Anyway, all this talk about honeybees has made me thirsty for some honey-lemon tea. I make it from scratch, from First Principles, you know! Not that pre-packaged stuff that no one knows where it came from! Would you like some?”

“Yes! That sounds like a great idea!”

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