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What Termites Can Teach Us

Termites may be hard to love, but they’re easy to admire. Termite mounds can reach as high as thirty feet. Based on their tiny size, that’s the equivalent of humans building something twice as tall as the 2,722-foot Burj Khalifa, in Dubai. The interior of a termite mound is an intricate structure of interweaving tunnels and passageways, radiating chambers, galleries, archways, and spiral staircases.

To build a mound, termites move vast quantities of mud and water. In the course of a year, eleven pounds of termites can move about three hundred and sixty-four pounds of dirt and thirty-three hundred pounds of water. The point of all this construction is not to have a place to dwell—the colony lives in a nest six to seven feet below the mound—but to be able to breathe. The mound acts as a lung for the colony, managing the exchange of gases, leveraging small changes in wind speed to inhale and exhale.

Termites appear to do all this without any centralized planning: there are no architects, engineers, or blueprints. The termite mound isn’t just a building. It’s much more like a body, a self-regulating organic process that always reacts to its changing environment. Scientists claim that individual termites are not very intelligent. They lack memory and the ability to learn. Put a few termites into a Petri dish and they wander around aimlessly. But put enough termites together, in the right conditions, and they will build you a cathedral.

Possible Preaching Angles: 1) Creation; Creator; Evolution – Humble termites unmistakably show evidence of intelligent design by our omniscient God. 2) Body of Christ; Church; Unity – Great things can be accomplished when God’s people, weak though we are individually, work together in unity.

Source: Amia Srinivasan, “What Termites Can Teach Us,” The New Yorker (9-17-18)

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