I Sting, Therefore I Am—Insect Consciousness


A conversation with entomologist Sandy Koi at the International Congress on Consciousness

A chain of synchronicities, like a trail of leaf cutter ants, led me to an unexpected conversation with entomologist Sandy Koi on the consciousness of insects.

First, I have to confess a personal bias that at times has crossed the line into full-blown racism with barely suppressed genocidal fantasies. After decades of enduring microaggressions from boundary-invading members of the insect persuasion, I became ever more judgmental and stereotyped in my view of insect-Americans.  For example, on May 27 of 2016, I posted the following status update on my Faceboook page:

Has anyone else noticed that insects seem to be literal and concrete about everything? I don’t like to stereotype any group, but They also never seem to get any form of irony and appear entirely humorless as far as I can tell. Just because you are part of nature does NOT make you cool, and in fact many of them seem quite mechanical and annoying.

Negative feelings and judgments about the insect race were hardening in me, until about two weeks ago when I watched a recording of the Charlie Rose May 2nd interview with  historian David McCullough. I was surprised when, apropos of nothing,  McCullough told Rose than reading a book about insects was one of the most influential events of his life. Then, at the end of the show, when Rose asked McCullough, who is 84, what advice he has for young people and one of the most prominent gems of elder wisdom he offered was, “Read a book about insects.”

At that moment I decided that I ought to read a book about insects. On May 17 I purchased the most highly reviewed book on insects I could find on Audible, Life on a Little Known Planet. Later I found out that this is the exact book that inspired McCullough. I haven’t listened to the book yet, but the following day, May 18, during a lunch break from the first day of the International Congress on Consciousness in Miami, I grabbed the only stool available in a Whole Foods that was swarming with masses of Miamiites, to eat a $20. salad out of a cardboard box. The woman sitting next to me, seeing my conference ID, introduced herself as a fellow attendee. It was entomologist extraordinaire, Sandy Koi. Recognizing that the trail of synchronicities had led me down the aperture of the termite mound to a literal queen of expertise on insect consciousness, I asked Sandy if we could do a podcast during the remainder of our lunch break.

Watch an amazing video of the dance of the Peacock Spider

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