Here in East Texas we are quite familiar with the pesky fire ant! It builds mounds in anyone’s yard. Whether you are the First Baptist preacher with a pristine yard or the people with 3 dogs tied out back and a pile of beer cans next to your back steps… a fire ant will build a nice housing complex. They go up about as quick as any construction crew with a lot less equipment.
There is something magical about watching them build and remodel their dirt homes. As a little girl, I couldn’t stop myself from poking sticks in the fire ant mounds to try and find the queen. Even now as an adult I feel the need to kick them down and by now I am aware I will be bit. And the ants stick together. If one bites you, then 30 more will before you get the first one clawed away.
Why is like that? Why do we know the outcome yet we still kick the fire ant mound? I am completely aware of the affect it will have on me, the fire ants and the fact they will rebuild next door. They don’t have a problem in the world moving around the metropolis of my yard. I can bait them up, come out the next evening they have moved the entire Ant Apartment complex to a better spot closer to the pool. (a much better view)
Just like in life, we know if we make a rash decision the outcome will not be so good. Yet, we stand there, stick in hand, and poke away at the mound, and run like we caught fire when we are bit. I did that just the other day. I poked and poked and poked, then wham!!! The bite!!
I knew the outcome wasn’t going to be what I wanted, but I could not stop myself from poking the issue with my words. I just had to speak them. I felt the need to verbalize what shouldn’t have been thought, much less spoken from my lips!!! There I sat next to a mound, knowing very well, I have been here before, and faced this decision of poking and prodding for the queen ant, or walking away and letting Mother-Nature take care of things. I knew that I would be bit and then jump around and ran in a circle and slapped at the bites.
This way of thinking is called a cognitive bias. What that means to me and you… annoying glitches in our thinking that causes us to make questionable decisions and reach flawed conclusions. Scientists say a human brain has the ability to process 10 to the 16th power per second, which makes the brain far more powerful than any computer in existence. But there I stood in my yard kicking over a fire ant mound.
The lowly calculator can do math far better than me, and my memory is often less than useless, but scientist believe we are the superior beings. Sometimes, I just have to beg to differ. I almost think the fire ant is smarter. He doesn’t attack anyone unless he is first attacked. He never bothers with a real estate agent, just moves the entire colony effectively and efficiently, not leaving one marching ant soldier behind. And above all else, they believe in protecting the queen, even if it means death.
Then out of nowhere… pops up a bored to death… I mean I could see buzzards circling over head… human… and I decide I must poke the fire ant mound with my stick that they are actually able to climb before I decide to throw it!
So, if we are so smart, we have invented computers, calculators and are at the top of the food chain, I must wonder… why did I do it in the first place?
About The Author: Barbie Driskell (Aunt B) was raised in the shade of pine trees of East Texas. “I am very proud of my roots, just like a pine tree, may not be deep but they sure take over when left to their own devices. I smile frequently, laugh genuinely and live simply.”