Just imagine life at such a different scale. A brain small enough to not quite comprehend the enormous multicoloured space below and around. Only enough gravity sensation to keep the blue or grey above. Looking at the world through a hundred lensed compound eye. Everything multiplied into incomprehensibility. Things many thousand times your size lumbering through the space you’re trying to understand. Inert invisible material halting your escape. Generally shunned and swatted at by some of the largest animals in town.
Of course, that’s nothing like being a wasp. But if you were in that situation, you’d spend a lot of time being pretty pissed off, right?
But wasps aren’t there frustrated at the borders of what they can comprehend. Wasps just have wasp thoughts. Wasp senses, that make enough sense to wasps for wasps to survive. Some of the time.
We’re at an impasse here, because in order to answer the question, I have to make guesses and conclusions about what being a wasp is like, and that’s a matter of fact impossibility.
I want to outright slam on the table the notion that wasps can’t be angry, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all that tiny headspace is filled up with the neurons that replicate anger. Perhaps anger was the most useful thing for an ovipositor with wings to develop. It would certainly serve a purpose, motivating all that buzzing and seemingly random motion into something hyped up and aggressive.
But that would be projection. The whole thing is. Guesswork across a species boundary so far apart that its incomprehensible. My first paragraph imagines my concerns were I a wasp. But I am not in that position. A wasp’s every experience is inherently waspy. All frames of reference are formed from that perspective. Size and movement probably don’t even mean the same thing. The moving cityscapes surrounding them are just part of the world.
I don’t even know what its like to be in your frame of reference, dear reader, and its a matter of faith that you’re probably close enough to like me that can understand you. We are roughly the same, but you are still technically incomprehensible.
Assuming waspish consciousness, there’s still some similarity there, we are both living entities trying to live. We are both points of view that exist. That’s enough to empathise, but ever enough to know.
When I see a wasp banging its head against a window, I try to open it up and talk it down to the empty space that frees it. I can see its inability to take in the solidity of the air in front of it. Something that should work isn’t it.
Even in that sheer frustration, I don’t see anger. The wasp just keeps on doing its wasping. Maybe it is angry. Maybe it is enlightened.
It’s impossible to tell the difference.
Wasps. Like everything, are a mystery. We guess, we wonder, and we learn.
And we’re never ever closer to a why.
Illustration by Helen