Maeterlinck says that a single bee lacks the necessary intelligence to make honey; but that a hive of bees develops a high order of intelligence.
It is only when they work together that bees are productive. If all the bees in the hive were separated and forced to live alone they would make no honey, not even to sustain life. Through lack of individual intelligence they would die of starvation.
A hive of bees has a well-defined purpose, toward which each must work or suffer the consequences. If, for example, a bee bringing honey back to the hive eats it instead of storing it for the general good, the other bees sting it to death.
One bee alone has no purpose, no plans, no intelligence. In short, a bee separated from its fellow bees is absolutely helpless, absolutely useless.
What is true of the bee is in a large degree true of a human being. A man separated from his fellow-men, without any of the social advantages, conveniences or facilities which community life affords, would be practically helpless. The strength of each one of us is dependent on our unity with all the others, because we are all parts of one whole.
The intelligence of the community brain of a town or village is much superior to the individual brains composing it. Men, who are stingy, narrow, unprogressive, will vote en masse to do things for the general welfare which individually they would never consent to.
History and experience show that mankind rises or falls together. Every real and permanent advance since the world began has been due to the action of the great principle of human brotherhood - the majority acting together for the good of all.
It is a remarkable thing that practically all of the experiments for the attainment of ideal citizenship by little groups of altruistic people, who separated themselves from the rest of the world to start colonies modeled on the Brook
Farm plan, have been total failures. Theoretically, it would seem that the colonization of intellectual, highly moral and industrious people should produce an ideal condition of society. But the results of actual experience in exclusive class-grouping of this sort have always been disappointing.
The fact is, we are made to help one another in the mass. It is a law of nature that men and women begin to deteriorate when they are separated from their fellows. No man can permanently separate himself from his fellows without shrinking. No one, no matter how clever or resourceful, is independent. He is not a whole man alone; but he is large and powerful in proportion as he is related to his fellows. He must touch other lives or lose power. He is so constituted that a thousand relations with his brother man are necessary to his largest development, his completest life. When he cuts himself off from the common life he cuts off a great many currents of power, closes many avenues of interrelation which bring strength and rich experience.
Take a writer, for example. If he secludes himself from society he begins after a while to lose his mental vigor; his brain has less stamina; there is a weakening all along the line until, if he secludes himself too long, his writings become flat, insipid, flavorless. To keep up his standard his brain must have new food, greater variety, fresh experiences. He must meet new people, visit new scenes, mix with the world, fulfil his social functions. This is nature's law; and the penalty for its violation is mental paralysis.
What is true of the writer is true of men and women in every calling. Separate yourself from the. world, and you are like a single wire in an untwisted cable. A large part of your strength comes from your close association with other men and women. It did not reside in you, but only became yours when you were closely twisted with the others.
"Men succeed only as they work together," said Elbert Hubbard. "Without companionship ambition droops; courage flags, reason totters, ambition vanishes, and the man dies. Nature puts a quick limit on the horrors of solitary confinement - she unhinges the reason of the prisoner, and he addresses comrades who have no existence save in his fevered imagina tion. The man who does useful work is in direct communication with other people - he works for others, and the thought that he is doing something for somebody sustains him."
This tying together of human beings so that they cannot get their fullest power alone is one of the wisest provisions of nature for the defeat of selfishness, the greatest foe of human development.
We have seen that when the bee does not work for the common good it is put out of the way. In human society, we don't put the selfish units to death, but their selfishness brings its own punishment, just as the broad generous spirit brings its own reward. For the more a man helps others, the more closely he touches other lives, the more he expands and grows, the more love and power comes back to him, while the selfish man, who secludes himself from others, who has no sympathy for his neighbors, who tries to get everything for himself, and gives as little as possible, is constantly shrinking and narrowing his boundaries. He is robbing himself of power when he thinks he is acquiring it. In the long run, selfishness defeats its object.
Every created thing is a part of the divine universal plan, in which each of us is intended to play an individual part. But though individual, we are still one in essence, "For," as St. Paul says, "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." Our neighbor is ourself because there is only one mind in the universe. And since all is an expression of that Infinite Mind, there can be no real separateness of individuals, except in their failure to recognize that "one life runs through all creation's veins."
Some of us seem to think that we are independent centers of intelligence instead of being parts of a scheme so vast, a plan so magnificent, not only for the races that live upon our little earth planet, but for the numberless beings who live upon other planets, that it is beyond the scope of our imagination.