The presence of spiders

Arachnophobics beware. I am a big fan of spiders. I am, however, happy to love them and cheer them on from a distance.

Of all the insects, spiders are perhaps the most shy and prefer to have nothing to do with humans. If they venture into your house, they hide in dark, undisturbed places, spinning their tiny webs and nabbing other pesky insects. I once lived with what I will call a “fly spider.” He (or she, I never got close enough to check it out) lived on my ceilings and spun webs close to doorways trapping the flies who would zoom in as I came and went. Because the fly spider stayed on the ceiling and I stayed on the floor, we maintained an excellent relationship for over two years.

When I was about 10 years old, I invaded their world by creeping outdoors with my flashlight before dawn to explore what the world was like in the dark. Before you go freaking out imagining all sorts of dangers lurking in the shadows prepared to pounce upon me, know that I haven’t been 10 years old in at least 40 years and I lived on an army base. And I never went much further than my own back yard. I didn’t need to. I found the most spectacular spider webs carefully crafted between bushes and trees, with the creator nestled snugly in the center patiently waiting for that tremble signaling prey had landed. I would go back later in the day only to discover no traces of the web or the spider.

Knowing what I know about spiders, I was surprised when I saw one scuttling across the floor the other day during a yoga session. I was perfectly fine with allowing the spider to continue its way to its intended destination, but the man next to me was not. He screamed, jumped up, grabbed his shoe, and started pounding the spider, yelling the entire time, until it was nothing more than a pasty dark mass. Please understand we had the spider outnumbered. There were ten of us. It was the middle of the day with bright sunlight streaming through the windows. I think the spider was searching for some darkness (it found the ultimate darkness, that’s for sure). It certainly was not looking to attack any of us.

While that man was responding as many other people do when they see a spider, I now view him in a very different way than I did before I witnessed that event. I understand that people, when in the midst of their phobias, lose control of their responses. But, he could have chosen a different response. He could have moved away. Or, done nothing. The spider was going to bypass him. As he sat back down, he said “I hate spiders.” I want to say he acted out of his fear, but instead of acknowledging he was afraid, he could only acknowledge how his fear manifested – in the form of hate.

Some fears of getting bit by spiders are well-founded. The brown recluse and black widow are poisonous to humans. If a brown recluse or black widow take up residence in your home, feel free to escort them quickly outdoors or, in some cases, the next iteration of their existence. That is taking good care of you. Of course, if you really want to be magnanimous, you can leave the spider there and you can find a new home.

Just kidding.

This episode brought home to me how the world manifests its fear of others by telling ourselves we hate someone else and need to attack and kill them before they attack and kill us. Maybe the topic of fear should be the first thing discussed at peace negotiations.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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10 Responses to “The presence of spiders”

  1. jeffstroud Says:

    As I read this I recalled at the many times I have come across spiders, lived with them in my space. When you think about it we share our space with millions of unseen creators, going about their lives.
    Yes there are creators that could harm us but I think it is our own fear, and where does that fear come from, some data in your minds that has nothing to do with reality of the situation at hand.

    Than I thought how sad for this man who was in yoga, seeking to find his center, a place of peace and trust, yet reacted so violently to an innocent spider going about its life, that he, the man could not find peace, reacted from fear, and took a life…

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff — it is very sad and it definitely disturbed the peace of our yoga session. I don’t think that he is even conscious of how incongruous his purpose for being there was with his actions. I was a little bit tempted to take his shoe and whack him on the head with it. It certainly was a nudge to me to take a look at my own fears the next time I start reacting to what another person does.

  2. holessence Says:

    Oh Barbara, I was notified by email of this post earlier today, but wanted to wait until I could thoroughly enjoy reading it with a hot cuppa tea. I’m so glad I did. Like you, I admire what spiders do for us, but from a very respectful distance–preferably from across a large room.

    Your sentence, “I want to say he acted out of his fear, but instead of acknowledging he was afraid, he could only acknowledge how his fear manifested – in the form of hate” makes me think about how so many of us operation from a platform of fear. We do–or fail to do–things based on fear.

    How much wider our brushstroke of living is when we release fear and embrace courage, compassion, forgiveness and so on.

    This is a great post — THANK YOU!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — fear seems to be the basis of a lot of violence. And, like Jeff says above, a lot of it is manifested in our own thoughts, not in reality. You are right when you say that our lives become larger when we release our fear. Suddenly, there are a whole bunch of new options and new ways of being that we had not seen before.

  3. sandiwhite Says:

    Okay, I should have been to the feed store and back by now but I am enjoying a lazy Monday morning, no hustle or bustle. Barbara, you know that I do not have an affinity for spiders, the only one I could ever stand was Charlotte and she was make-believe. However, as a gardener and all around naturalist type, I understand that spiders play a very important part in the natural world, eating things that also bother me, flies and mosquitoes to name a couple. I’ve often thought that you showed a very ambiguous attitude when it comes to 8-legged crawlies, or you just might be very brave. I have been spider-bitten more times than I care to recall but that is one of the hazards of gardening. If they live outside, that’s fine. I will give them no house space. I already have too many I haven’t located. They come with old houses. As you recounted the story of the man in the yoga class and reaction to his outburst, I immediately thought of the man in Florida who gained attention by burning the Koran(‘s). Fear? Bid for attention? The ripple affect from this poorly thought out action will only grow wider and wider and create more disharmony. That is why I don’t kill the spiders I see outside, it is their world too, and they have their important part in keeping things in balance.

  4. Barbara Kass Says:

    Charlotte was make-believe?????!!!!!!

    Are you sure?

    Anyway, I know you have nothing but respect for all creatures and living things, Sandi. While I might be brave letting a spider live on my ceiling, I am a scaredy-cat when it comes to poking around weeds and digging into the ground. I wear thick gloves, long sleeves, and am usually sweltering inside of five minutes (thus requiring frequent breaks for ice water). It is why I am happy with my pot gardening. Okay, that came out wrong . . . I am happy with gardening potted plants.

    The guy who burned the Koran was an idiot. There is no book that is evil. Just like any other knowledge, it is how one chooses to interpret and use the knowledge that gives it meaning.

  5. ntexas99 Says:

    Hi Barbara … just like those eight-legged creepy crawlies, every now and then I pop out of the woodwork and scurry around looking for things of interest, which, of course, led me to your post this morning.

    I was also immediately struck by the incongruous nature of the man searching for inner peace suddenly becoming the harbinger of death, and how fear-based actions can lead to results that are in opposition to our basic tenets or beliefs. This post will come back to me (a) the next time I reach for a shoe with the intention of eradicating a creepy crawlie, and (b) the next time I catch myself reacting out of fear, and (c) the next time I ponder the question as to why hatred stands behind so many unspeakable acts of violence.

    BTW, please add my horror to the unimaginable idea that Charlotte was make-believe. My grandchildren might argue the point … convincingly.

    Thanks for sharing this post. A gentle illustration of how fear becomes hatred, and how hatred begets violence. And how peaceful intention gets lost along the way. Interesting stuff. All the bits and pieces.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Nancy — it is so good to hear from you! And, yes, I am happy that you popped out of the woodwork although I would never consider you a creepy crawlie. The man who whacked that poor spider is a fairly unconscious and unaware individual. I think he just does the yoga for the exercise.

      Fear walks so closely with so many of our emotions: anger, hatred, depression. Jeff at the reluctant blogger http://jeffstroud.wordpress.com/ just recently wrote about fear as well.

      I just can’t believe that Charlotte was make-believe . . . but then, Sandi wouldn’t lie to me. Maybe Charlotte is like Santa Clause — real life become fable.

      Take care and keep in touch.

  6. redpresence Says:

    What we often don’t realise is there is always a choice in our actions if we take a second to ask ourselves,rather than just react. It takes training and in the moment conciousnes. I just hope the arachaphobic does return to Yoga class as he obviously wants a different way of being. What a challenge for the rest of the class too. My yoga is in a gym, some times the thumping music drowns out the teacher voice and her music, yet i am so gratefully the gungo-gym includes yoga as ligitmate excercise. Even tai chi continues as there is a constant of twenty of us! It is that small alternative an oasis amongst the activity

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hello, Australia! I am grateful for our yoga, as well. We have it during the lunch hour at a room specially set aside for wellness activities at work. It is right next to the lunch room so we get to hear conversation and the television, but, like you, I am grateful for the opportunity to zone out and get into my body for 45 minutes. I am learning in my sixth decade of life to find everything I can be grateful for amidst a world of fear.

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