…not only “when first we practice to deceive,” as Scottish Novelist and Poet Sir Walter Scott (1731-1832) said, but in everything we think, say or do.
Spider webs have existed for at least 100 million years. Ever watch a spider in its web? After spinning its sticky, silken threads, most spiders then wait on, or near, the web for its prey to become trapped. The spider can sense the impact and struggle of its victim by vibrations transmitted along the web lines. Webs allow a spider to catch prey without having to expend energy by running it down.
Some 160 years ago, Chief Seattle, a leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes in what is now the State of Washington — the city of Seattle is named after him — wisely said, “All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth. We did not weave the web of life we are merely strands in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” According to one of the tenets of Zen, “The self and the rest of the universe are not separate entities but one functioning whole.”
Dominique Henri Pires, winner of the 1958 Nobel Peace Prize, once said, “If the atomic bomb falls on the world tomorrow, it is because I argued with my neighbor today.” Pires’ statement makes little sense to us unless we realize that our world is a single web in which each one of us, and all of life, is intimately connected. What we think, say or do against our nearby neighbor today has consequences for all who live in our “global village.” Our selfish behavior has painful results, as evidenced currently by COVID-19, and sometime in the future – the “tomorrow” to which Pires refers.
And since 1989 the world literally is connected via The Worldwide Web, a network of interlinked, hypertext documents accessed via the Internet. The Web, as it stands today, has allowed global interpersonal exchange on a scale unprecedented in human history. It’s an embodiment of human knowledge. People separated by vast distances, or even large amounts of time, can use the Web to exchange – or even mutually develop – their most intimate and extensive thoughts, or alternately their most casual attitudes and spirits. Emotional experiences, political ideas, cultural customs, musical idioms, business advice, artwork, photographs, literature, all can be shared and disseminated digitally with less individual investment than ever before.
The Web is the most far-reaching and extensive medium of personal exchange to appear on Earth. It probably has allowed many of its users to interact with many more groups of people, dispersed around the planet in time and space, than is possible when limited by every other existing medium of communication combined. The Web has been a vital necessity during the worldwide pandemic.
Because the Web is global, some have suggested it will nurture universal mutual understanding. By definition or by necessity, the Web has a massive potential for social exchange, and it has the ability to nurture empathy and symbiosis. But it also has the capability to incite belligerence on a global scale, or even to empower demagogues and repressive regimes in ways that historically were impossible to achieve previously. In addition, it opens a not-so-secret passage into a world of pornography, undoubtedly one of the most exploitative industries of our day – replete with extreme manipulation, coercion, profiteering and addiction. Cybercrimes cost many organizations and individuals millions of dollars every year, exposing them to the outside world along with hacking, which means using computers to commit fraudulent acts such as deception, privacy invasion, stealing corporate/personal data, etc.
But even if we manage to set the Internet aside in our life, we nevertheless remain connected to the world. The strands of the spider’s web speak of a universal truth. If we hate anyone, or attempt to deceive another person, we ultimately hate or deceive ourselves. All of humanity, animals, plants and the earth itself is intertwined and interdependent as are the numerous strands of a spider’s web. There is a harmony between rich and poor, friends and enemies, sick and healthy, immigrants and imprisoned, young and old, sky and earth, water and air, plants and animals, snow and rain – for all are part of our “world village.”
“There is a ripple effect in all we do. What you do towards me; what I do towards you” (author unknown).
It seems appropriate to close with the classic nursery rhyme, the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” also known as the “Incy Wincy Spider” in some countries. It’s hard not to be endeared by this song — even if you are a bit creeped out by real-life spiders – since it can serve as an example of our human fortitude. Here are the lyrics:
“The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain,
and the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.”