© R. L. Whitney. Originally published on June 24, 1987
A theologian once asked the eminent British biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, if he thought any conclusion could be drawn about the nature of God from a study of his works. Haldane apparently answered, "An inordinate fondness for beetles."
I think I would want to add spiders too.
I was sitting at my very own dining room table the other evening, enjoying a moment's respite from the frenzied pace of the day while perusing the newspaper from back to front as is my wont, when I thought my eyes, never the very best even on good days, were finally giving out. Between me and the page I was keenly digesting were spots - spots that kept shifting in and out, up and down, in a most disconcerting fashion. Eventually, of course, the spots won out, in the competition for my attention, over the In Memoriams. Nothing I could do - roll my eyes, blink rapidly, tilt my head - seemed to shake the spots. Unlike most of the spots which nearsighted people are afflicted with from time to time these remained apparently in front of me, shifting in and out, up and down.
Just as I was about to reach for the phone book to look up the hot line for Mental Health, one of the spots slid rapidly toward the table and then applied the brakes to come to a jerky halt just an inch or so above the surface, thought better of the descent, and retreated upwards a half a foot to consider the next move. I had been being terrorized by a bunch of baby spiders letting themselves down by ropes suspended from my ceiling, invading my air space, and not a one of them had so much as a Civil Aviation Authority marker on. At least. I don't think they did. They were so small I couldn't even make out their aviators' jackets, to see whether they really had eight arms.
But there are baby spiders everywhere these days. Try as you will, you're bound to run into one or two in the course of the day without really being aware of it - they don't have running lights either - so goodness knows it's not so surprising that we're having all this rain.
Down in the barn, where the spider population has something worth-while to work on in the nature of buzzes and creepy-crawlies, I haven't seen a single spider of any size, large or small. The chief pest in our barn right now is our new-milch cow, but I don't think even the spiders could help with the problem.
What is it that spiders do for a living up here in the house, I would like to know. Granted the maid doesn't get around to tidying every room every day, and the butler has certainly been making himself scarce, I don't see what all there is for a young spider on the make to do. A lot of them spend their time in the danker corners of the basement and I'll bet you there hasn't been a fly through those sections oftener than once in the last fifty years.
I've never seen one take an interest in the black beetles that God also seems to find so attractive this time of year - you know, the ones that spend their time materializing in the bottom of the tub or the sink and trying unsuccessfully to crawl out, over and over and over again. What do they do for a living besides sit around of an evening telling tall tales about how they almost succeeded in scaling the west face of the stainless steel mountain? Unlike spiders, black beetles come only in the larger sizes, God apparently inventing them that size and plunking them down in the tub to see whether by any chance this one or that one might have the mother wit to get a running start at the sloping end and so be up and over before gravity caught on to what was doing. The fact that He keeps trying indicates an optimism of truly extraordinary proportions, especially since, being omniscient, He already knows how all the trials are going to come out. (So do the rest of us, of course, but perhaps it is unkind to say so.)
Baby spiders are rather comical and black beetles do have a naive hopefulness that is faintly appealing but what God sees in a June beetle is really hard to make out. The idea of animating something that size and encasing it in armor plate and setting it aflight to spend its entire waking - if that is the term I want - life bashing into your bedroom window or your porch light bespeaks a curious mind-set. On the other hand, the June bug might say the same thing about the inventors of plate glass and the incandescent light.
People who live in glass houses, I suppose . . . .
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.