Rice and the Spider

Rice and the Spider
From Garfield, by Jim Davis

I realized yesterday that I neglected, in my observations, to recognize how good Arismendy Alcantara looked in center field.  Arismendy was all over the place, making great catches and showing extraordinary range.  He's got an arm but I think he needs to fix his throws a bit as they have a tendency to sail on him.  I think he can stick in center per my hypothetical plan and in some ways he kind of reminds me of a spider.

Spiders, of course, are arachnids, a large grouping of animals in the Arthropod phylum and one of the most resilient and adaptable organisms this planet has ever seen.  They're everywhere, and while some are deadly and at the very least a bit of a nuisance, many, like Alcantara, are versatile and useful.  Spiders tend to kill off all the other insects you don't like, so kudos to them.

I sort of bring this up because of the spider story I was thinking about as I drove the wife to Starbucks and then to work.  My brother gave us like $100 in Starbucks gift credit when he came to visit this summer and we finally plowed through it all; I usually drink their hot chocolate and their fruity concoctions because I hate coffee, but the wife does like the ice coffee and frappuccino things.  Anyway, I noticed that the spider that has made my car's driver side door its home for the past couple of weeks had spun yet another beautiful web across the mirror towards the window area, right below the sliding window part where the plastic thing is that hugs the window to keep it sealed from the elements.  At one point I had to reach OVER the web to get to the ticket dispenser when I dropped the wife off in the parking lot.  I just couldn't bring myself to kill the web.  I mean, I can't help it when I'm driving 65+ on the expressway, but on the local roads, it's just common courtesy not to blow up a spider's home, right?

In my science classes, I learned that the amygdala (a specialized section of the brain) is responsible for emotional learning, including the modulation of fear responses.  There's probably something primitive within the human brain that tells us to be afraid of spiders, because some of them can be venomous and therefore dangerous.  As you can guess, fear of insects and also general arachnophobia is pretty common (they even made a crappy movie about it) and in many cases it could be justified; we had a bedbug infestation in the house that cost us quite a bundle (I had to build the boy a new bed because of it, thanks IKEA) and mosquitos, well, they suck.  I personally have an aversion to spiders.  I think tarantulas are cool, but I wouldn't touch them and I get ooged out when my former labmate and friend shows me his pet tarantula's molted exoskeletons in Altoid tins (he's a bit weird).  I mean, I won't scream and hop on a table while lifting my skirts like in those old cartoons, but I'll actively keep a buffer zone between me and the passing arachnid.

This spider, though, is something else.  I'm sure spiders have learning ability (they have a centralized nervous system) and so after several commutes with me to and from work with a wind against its legs, you'd think it would have learned to find somewhere else to build its web.  But it is very tenacious.  It is resilient.  And the fun thing is that at the school I work at, resilience is one of our core values and I felt there's some kind of lesson to be learned here.  The spider knows to crawl into the side mirror's housing to shield itself from the wind.  If it is caught unaware and I start driving while it is hanging by a thread, it will hang on for dear life, slowly inch along its thread (spider silk is super strong!) until it can get back to the mirror.  And if the web is somehow disturbed, the next day I'll find it repaired again, beautiful as it was the day before.  It simply has no desire to move, no intention to succumb to any obstacle, and doesn't seem to understand the term "defeat" (even though spiders probably don't have what we would call "vocabulary").

I very much admire this spider.  It will probably die sometime this fall, but in the time that we have together, it's taught me something.  I don't know what exactly yet, but it's been inspirational.

Feel free to relate this to the Cubs if you want, but I just thought it was a cool story that I would share.

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