spiders, and a strange leap to community

My first exposure to spiders might have been the daddy long legs along the back patio, or quite possibly Charlotte’s Web, by EB White. Since then our relationship has been tenuous, dancing between a morbid fascination and outright fear.

Lately it’s been veering toward amazement. I encountered a spider hiding in the flower of a barrel cactus. It can change its color, go from yellow to white within seconds. However the blush back to yellow can take months. There is their shape and patterns, how they defend themselves. There is also the homes they build.

Expanses of geometric mastery woven out of the thread of their own bodies, it’s not surprising that the spider features prominently in many native american myths. The weaver of life.

In some respects, they appear as sad solitary creatures. Aside from sacs of eggs and cocooned snacks, they poise on their webs otherwise alone. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Aloneness. Community. The words aren’t strictly antonymous, but they are related.

Clearly spiders have evolved to be this way. It would be an overly romantic mistake to infer that they long for companionship. People, however, are different. Decidedly social creatures, we tend languish in the absence of company, thrive in the right amounts of company, and get crazy when there is too much of it. Naturally exceptions exist to every rule, but we do have generalized “truths” for a reason.

The right community can bring power. It can provide support, mental and emotional, it can provide knowledge and advice. It inspires us, cajoles us to the next stage. Perhaps the most important feature of community is to know that we are not alone.

The wrong community can be just as draining as a good community is fulfilling. Selfish, demanding, seedy and hypocritical. It takes more than it gives.

Going back to the spider, perhaps community can be compared to a web. One poorly built and neglected won’t yield much. One built with precision in time and space will offer much more. The key here is intention and investment. We must contribute, and be active with purpose and care. Then we can stand back, and marvel at the complexity of simple geometry.

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