I’ve been reading a book called The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo every day now for awhile. The book is broken up into short one page essays for each day of the year. There was one called “The Spider and the Sage” and it has really resonated me. I’ve been dealing with someone for 8 years now that continually “stings” me though I keep trying. Just recently I had decided that I was done trying. What’s the point? I only get hurt. And then I read this essay… So I’ve been reading it every so often trying to remind myself that to live a kind life I need to be like the Sage and keep helping the spider (even when I don’t want to). I typed it out to share with you. Hopefully you’ll find it as poignant as I did.
The Spider and the Sage
In India, there is a story about a kind, quiet man who would pray in the Ganges River every morning. One day after praying, he saw a poisonous spider struggling in the water and cupped his hands to carry it ashore. As he placed the spider on the ground, it stung him. Unknowingly, his prayers for the world diluted the poison.
The next day the same thing happened. On the third day, the kind man was knee deep in the river, and, sure enough, there was the spider, legs frantic in the water. As the man went to lift the creature yet again, the spider said, “Why do you keep lifting me? Can’t you see I will sting you every time, because that is what I do.” And the kind man cupped his hands about the spider, replying, “Because that is what I do.”
There are many reasons to be kind, but perhaps none is as compelling as the spiritual fact that it is what we do. It is how the inner organ of being keeps pumping. Spiders sting. Wolves howl. Ants build small hills that no one sees. And human beings lift each other, no matter the consequence. Even when other beings sting.
Some say this makes us a sorry lot that never learns, but to me it holds the same beauty as berries breaking through ice and snow every spring. It is what quietly feeds the world. After all, the berries do not have any sense of purpose or charity. They are not altruistic or self-sacrificing. They simply grow to be delicious because that is what they do.
As for us, if things fall, we will reach for them. If things break, we will try to put them together. If loved ones cry, we will try to sooth them – because that is what we do. I have often reached out, and sometimes it feels like a mistake. Sometimes, like the quiet man lifting the spider, I have been stung. But it doesn’t matter, because that is what I do. That is what we do. It is the reaching out that is more important than the sting.
Pg. 20 The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo