"A leap in the void.. Rubem Alves"

from "The Poet, the Warrior, the Prophet"

  But God chose what is foolish in the world,
  even things that are not,
  to bring to nothing things that are..
  1 Cor. 1: 27-28

"From my chair I watch a spider which made her cobweb on the upper corner of the walls of my study. She was there yesterday and with a broom I got rid of it. Spiders and cobwebs are a sign of carelessness and I did not want my visitors disturbed by their annoying presence. But she returned and rebuilt her house in the same place. I believe that she has forgiven me and that she hopes that I will understand... I understand. And I decided to share my space with her.

"The spider doubly fascinates me. First, because of what I see. There she is, safe and happy, over the empty space. There is no hesitation in her steps. Her legs move on the thin threads of her cobweb with tranquil precision, as if they were fingers of a violinist, dancing on the strings. Her cobweb: such a fragile structure, built with almost transparent gossamer. And yet it is perfect, symmetrical, beautiful, fit to its purpose.

"Second, because of what I do not see. I did not see her first move, the move which was the beginning of the web, the leap into the void...I imagine that tiny, almost invisible creature, hanging alone on the wall. She sees the other walls, far away, and measures the distance between them: an empty space...And there is one thing only she can count on for the incredible work she is about to start: a thread, still hidden inside her body. And then, suddenly, a leap into the void, and the spider's universe has begun...

"The spider is a metaphor of myself; I also want to weave a web over the void. But my world is not woven with anything material. It is made out of a substance more ethereal than gossamer thread, so ethereal that some have compared it to the wind: words.

"Good teachers, like the spider, know that lectures and webs cannot be woven in the void. They need foundations. Threads, no matter how light, must be tied to solid things: trees, walls, beams. If the ties were cut, the spider is blown away by the wind, made homeless. Teachers know that the same is true of words: if they are separated from things they lose their meaning. Alone they do not stand..

"But there is more.. normal spiders know, unconsciously, what they have to do. They work with a method.. They start from solid and dependable foundations and proceed step by step...

"The teacher starts from what is known and proceeds methodically toward the unknown, building bridges with the materials at hand..."

Rubem Alves, "The Poet, the Warrior, the Prophet" p.2-6

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• © 2005 Len Hjalmarson.• Last Updated on September 9, 2005