Monday, April 16, 2007

caught in a web

Kurt Vonnegut wrote "if I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: 'The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.'" Vonnegut died last week and while his epitaph seems a bit ironic coming from a notable religious skeptic, it resonates with me. I have felt a similar inclination when listening to Dvorak’s 9th Symphony. I also found some pretty remarkable proof for God’s existence this past weekend while watching Life in the Undergrowth with my boys. Who else but an omnipotent being with limitless creativity could possibly come up with 6-foot earthworms so delicate they break if you touch them, or centipedes that eat bats, or the bizarre mating ritual of the leopard slug? (strangest thing I’ve EVER seen, and the thought did cross my mind: “Should I be letting my kids watch hermaphrodite slugs get it on?”).

I was also wondering: what else but a divine plan could explain why humans even matter in a world where if our whole species were to vanish, life would continue on without us, completely undisturbed?

I love watching nature documentaries with my boys, especially the David Attenborough ones. We sit on the couch in awe together. Adult awe, child awe – there’s little difference. Nature baffles minds of all ages and the closer you get to it (this particular documentary uses unbelievably strong lenses to get right up in the face of tiny critters) the more incredible it seems. My favorite part of Life in the Undergrowth was the footage of the orb spider spinning her web. 60 yards of thread, anchor lines, hubs, radiating spokes, scaffolding, beads of glue: it sounds so utilitarian until you watch it being constructed (with a proper soundtrack of course) and then it’s spectacular. Sure a web is simply a glorified food trap made and re-made by spiders every single night of their lives, but I think it is nothing short of miraculous.

As luck would have it, the other DVD arriving this week from our Netflix queue was Charlotte’s Web so I’m surrounded by webs and their silken, symbolic messages. Also on my mind is a sculpture by Francesco Queirolo called Deception. The sculpture shares with the orb web a sense of the spectacular. How could Queirolo possibly have carved that intricate net out of marble? But he did just that and in the process created the illusion of delicacy – a lie about lies. The metaphor is an old one: deception is a net which entangles us. In this sculpture, the victim is struggling to free himself with the help of the intellect, symbolized by the angel to his side. Webs and nets are both used to snare prey and so both have become symbols of deception, even to the point of the cliché, thanks to our fondness for Sir Walter Scott’s line: Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

So the net and the web represent deception and entanglement. How strange that they share another designation: nicknames for the same vast system of communication that brings me here today. The internet. The world wide web. Coincidence? I think not. Spreader of urban legends, rumors, pseudo science, pop-up “you are a winner” ads (lies! I won nothing), and just enough facts to make it dangerous, the internet is a tangled web indeed. The arachnida blogorus, also known as the weblog, spins a particularly insidious orb. Its threads are addictive and sticky, meaning once you get one of your little legs stuck to one, you’re a goner my friend. It will wrap you up tight, numb you with venomous flattery until you are puffed up with a false sense of self-importance, and then suck you dry. You may struggle to free yourself – vow to loosen its grip on your time, your mind, your furry little 6th leg, but instead you find yourself chatting it up with the other flies dangling around you. “Hey, how’s it goin'? Seen any good movies lately?”

16 comments:

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am a dangling fly with a furry 6th leg ... blogging has definitely morphed me forever. No wonder Entomology was my favorite class in college. I loved my bug collection and I took great pride in it.

Impressive symbolism and imagery you spun here and how true it is. I feel like I have been sucked in ...

Radioactive Jam said...

Go ahead. Take two weeks off, writing and reading.

I dare you.

Notice how I did not suggest something ridiculous like "I will if you will."

Does the phrase "I can stop anytime" bring to mind any other types of behaviors? Anyone? Bueller?

Irritable Mother said...

Ahh yes, the web can pull you in and trap you if you aren't careful. But without it, I would never have come across your writing and I would be missing out. So I'll choose to be careful and thankful. :)

Kimberly said...

What does it say about we flies that we enjoy our entrapment so thoroughly?

Fabulous post, Julie. Although I tell you that very selfishly in the hope that you'll get a wee bit more caught up in the WWW and entertain me some more.

I am soooo selfish!

Jennifer B. said...

Oooo -- Loved this, even if it reminded me that I am prey to the deadly (time-killing) web.

Guess I'd better watch out for that "arachnida blogorus"

Jenni said...

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Aaahhhhhh.....oh well, go ahead. Actually, it doesn't hurt that much. It's pretty cozy here wrapped up in all that silk, come to think of it. Maybe I'll stick around (haha!) for a week or 3,000.

What a brilliant post; amazing segues.

Klutzmom said...

Wow! I'm proud to claim you as my daughter. I guess I should say "our" since your dad had a lot to do with it.
It's amzing the way your mind works.
I've been thinking of dropping out of the writing part and simply enjoy reading everyone else's blogs. Maybe I'll just hang around in the net for a while.
Keep spinning your intricate posts.

Klutzmom said...

Oops! amazing
Too bad your mom can't spell.
I always thought some vowel were a waste of time.

Dedee said...

Amazing again. There is so much I could say about this blog, having recently just watched Charlottes Web. I still struggle with trying to figure out the concept of how much I should blog and when. And how many I should read. (I just came across a blog of a girls grandmother, growing up in the 1940's. The girls is posting her diary and journal entries. So much fun!)

Then we could go off on all sorts of other tangents, but I won't, to save space.

I'll watch out for that one spider you talked about. :)

Geo said...

You're scaring me. Okay, that's it. I'm shuttting down the blog.

Shalee said...

Oh, it's a trap? Hmph. And here I was all comfy in the blogsphere...

Well, as the old saying goes: If blogging is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

And as usual, I like the way you think.

Cakes said...

oh yeah. very very sticky.

Catherine said...

zYou are so right...on all counts...

Andrea said...

Brilliant.
So many juicy pieces to devour.....

scribbit said...

It can be an addiction for sure. Like so many areas of entertainment.

Kelly said...

This is an amazing post. The themes are incredibly - dare I say it? - woven together.

I think I'll have to bookmark it and come back later for a deeper read. It spoke to me on many levels.