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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Spider, Spider Burning Bright



I am terrified of spiders. Once on a walk in a park I saw a tarantula just off the park path. It was standing still in a pool of light. It had a kind of beauty that gets under your skin and makes it crawl. For the past few days the spider in the photo has been showing up on the ceiling of my kitchen and living room. I caught it walking across one of the M.C. Escher prints in our living room. Then Husband carried it outside on a bit of paper towel. (We have a no-violence-against-insects policy in our house. He calls me an ant-murderess because I unremorsefully kill ants that crawl too close to my sugar and flower bins. The strange thing is, I like ants very much.) In the sunlight the little tufts of hair around the spider's eyes glowed turquoise. There it was again, that uncomfortable beauty. I don't know if you can see the thin strips of white on its legs; they look painted there by a caligrapher with a very delicate brush. So she is out there now, the beautiful spider, scuttling in the grass, looking for its dinner (ants...?) and a place to sleep tonight, guarding its own little life with the same fierceness the rest of us do. What a world.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jonathan K. Cohen said...

"No matter how innumerable beings are, I vow to save them." The difficulty is in saving them from one another, as they take a surprisingly unenlightened view of predation.

April 10, 2006  
Blogger Green Whale said...

I'm not sure that saving animals from one another is necessary; they seem to me to keep a good balance in the way they kill each other to feed. But then I know so little about the natural world...

April 10, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan K. Cohen said...

So why then save insects from people? Is it the gratuity involved when a person is not in a culture that eats them? Is it moral responsibility that stays the bottom of your shoe? Is it the need to preserve biodiversity?

Why do we owe insects any more grace or reflection than they owe each other?

April 10, 2006  
Blogger Green Whale said...

These are very hard questions you're asking, and I'm not very confident in the answers I have to them. Nevertheless -- one reason I think we owe insects, and animals in general, more grace than they owe each other is that we are capable of understanding the consequences of our actions in a way animals aren't. Our big brains allow us to see what we do in context; that's why, it seems to me, we can make moral judgments. The other reason is that animals live by instinct in balance with their environment, whereas we humans have to make a conscious effort to. Part of that conscious effort is the decision not to destroy more of the natural world than absolutely necessary for our survival.

So I don't want to kill a spider that does me absolutely no harm by living in my house. I wish I didn't kill the ants that want to get at my flour and sugar because really, in the grand scheme of things, the inconvenience that they cause me is very, very small. There are earwigs in my house too, and I hate them (and am ashamed of that), and kill them not without a certain feeling of satisfaction. It becomes a question of hygiene after a certain point, too. Or at least that's how I justify it to myself for now.

April 11, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan K. Cohen said...

Well spoken, but I am not sure that all animals live in harmony with their environments. Elephants, for example, cause tremendous deforestation, which, with time, renders their territory uninhabitable for them.

"Aurea prima sata est aetas, quae vindice nullo, sponte sua, sine lege fidem rectumque colebat." - Ovid

The myth of a golden age, in which all is in harmony, transcends cultures, yet often proves to be false in its particulars. For example, natives or "First Peoples" are often felt to be in harmony with nature, yet some of the most interesting current work in American Studies indicates that the tribes treated were no less ecologically rash than we.

April 11, 2006  

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