Thursday, July 14, 2005

Is history one damn thing after another? -- Part 2

When we arrive at our Irish cottage every summer the place is overrun with spiders -- common cellar spiders, Pholcus phalangioides, sometimes called "daddy-long-legs." We go at them with the broom, a sad but necessary murderous sweep.

But the ones that have taken up residence under the bookshelves above my desk I let be. They are fun to watch, especially as they do their mysterious wiggle dance when I touch them with the point of a pencil. When babies are born, I feel a bit of the proud parent. What, pray tell, do they eat?

Their free energy rate density may not be as high as that of my Powerbook laptop, but they have a quality no laptop has. My Powerbook doesn't respond in surprising ways to my touch, or make babies, or move about from day to day. It doesn't touch my life the way other things clustered here about me do: books, plants, spiders, the ever-changing weather outside the window, the dew on the grass that is glittering like diamonds in the early morning sunlight.

Yes, I want to know where my species came from and where it's going, and I'm proud of the tradition of human curiosity and inquiry that has led us to an awareness of the DNA and the galaxies. But what's ultimately important in my life is this place, this moment, this slant of light, this improbably long-legged spider that even as I write is climbing its silver thread toward a book on the shelf called -- yes, I'm serious -- Mystery of Mysteries.