Spiders!

Sorry. I mean, spiders.

I’ve seen two in my bathtub now in the past several weeks. Both times were when I’d forgotten to put up their escape “ladder” – that is to say, the hand towel I keep draped over the edge of the tub.

Yes. The two times I’ve failed to replace the towel after using the tub, I’ve found spiders stranded in the basin.

I scooped them up with a postcard and deposited them into a nearby corner on the bathroom floor, so they could return to exploring or hunting or whatever it is spiders do when they’re not sleeping.

Which is to say that (a) spiders seem to enjoy forays into my bathtub and (b) when I find them there they likely aren’t lying in wait.

And more to the point, it’s to say that I live with spiders and everyone seems to get along OK.

I understand the fear. And some spiders definitely evoke it in me more than others. So I understand the desire to deposit them not on the bathroom floor but outside the house. Whether or not this sentences many of them to death or hardship, I do not know, but I do care, and so I err on the side of caution (though, black widow, you shall go outside).

Note that these words are being written by a person once so frightened of spiders that he took an aerosol can and a lighter and torched one whose only crime was being in a place in my apartment where I couldn’t easily capture or otherwise kill him.

This same person who committed that awful act would many years later relocate a brown recluse and what appeared to be hundreds of her babies.

So things change, and that’s part of the point. The arc of one’s respect for others is long, but with any luck it bends toward an increase.

The other part of the point is to imagine for just a second the likelihood that a being as tall as a skyscraper would shiver or cower when encountering a tiny little human. Right? Get it?

Life is precious. Spiders are amazing. If you don’t want to see them, though, stop trapping them in tubs and sinks. A hand towel will do the trick.

Pitying Predators, Pitying Ourselves

spiderA spider built a beautiful web on my front porch three days ago and took up residency at the center. As far as I can tell, she hasn’t snared any prey, and in fact the web already is in disrepair and seems to be about a third its original size.

Still she sits at the center, awaiting a reprieve from what I imagine to be her increasing hunger and concern.

Another spider did the same thing in my garage over the summer, apparently dying of hunger before successfully catching a meal.

Surely this happens all the time all over the world to predators – carnivores and omnivores alike.

We animal advocates tend to sympathize with the prey. I think that’s because so many of us reject the idea that might makes right, or at least we reject the way humans have perverted this axiom by taking it to its extreme. So we end up wanting to warn the rabbit about the hawk overhead.

But the hawk must eat, as must the spider, as must we all.

People say nature is cruel, but killing and eating is an act of survival, not cruelty.

Sadly, the human approach to eating animals is fraught with cruelty, both directly – as is the case with intensive confinement operations – and indirectly – in the devastating effects of intensive animal agriculture on wildlife habitat and the climate, and indeed on our fellow humans, an obscene number of whom go to bed hungry every night even in the United States because of the inequity and iniquity of our food systems. Might makes wrong here, no two ways about it.

It’s the animal advocate’s job to accept that nature involves killing. Becoming comfortable with natural animal behaviors allows us to more clearly identify (and thus eliminate) the aberrant behaviors of our fellow humans, to save our energy for effective and meaningful advocacy and, quite frankly, to stay sane.

If you must choose to pity the rabbit who dies in the hawk’s talons, pity too the spider who sits waiting in her tattered web for a meal that will never come.

But I recommend against expending your pity on either. Pity instead the victims of human callousness and disregard. But don’t swim in it, you know? We are surrounded by pain and suffering that can easily overwhelm us. Be mindful with your emotions. We have to take care of ourselves.

My good friend Dyne told me years ago, “Dave, you can’t take on all the world’s suffering and pain.” Those words possibly saved my life, and they certainly enabled me to remain effective in my advocacy.