This gorgeous beauty, black and yellow, patient and still, lives outside my front door. Each night she deconstructs and re-constructs her web. Her web is her home as well as the source of her sustenance and survival. Sturdy and flexible, this product of her patient and wise weaving, provides a means for her livelihood. Nightly she works hard, so that during the day her food will magically appear, not just for herself but also for her children who will traverse the fall and winter in their mother’s care so that they will be birthed into creation come springtime. Alternating between repose and effort, the Writing Spider weaves a life.
What does it look like for us to weave together lives that have a sensation of meaning and purpose? A life that is not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the larger whole. And what does it look like to live in sync with the rhythms of one’s own unique temperament, weaving together the various filaments and threads that life hands us in a way that gives one a sense of wholeness and purpose?
There are probably many ways to address such questions. Religions and philosophy strive to answer such profound things. Depth psychology addresses such questions from the perspective of listening deeply to the various ways that the soul deconstructs and re-constructs the conscious or ego-centered mind that dominates our thinking and behavior during the day. The ego actively decides what is acceptable and unacceptable to our dominant mode of thinking. Then at night, our dreams take the material that is left-out of day-time consciousness and then seeks to weave together a tapestry that expresses the totality of who we actually are. A life well lived, from the depth perspective, is one that tends to the weaving together of conscious and unconscious images. The ego-mind is relatively conservative by nature, while the unconscious mind sees everything as food for thought and for our potential vitality. We dance our lives between these polarities – conscious and unconscious – and we seek to grow as we strike a balance between the two. Carl Jung referred to this dynamic dance as the process of individuation.
In my own life’s journey, I see this dance play out in between the polar opposites: periods of darkness interspersed with periods of light; times of incredible joy mingled with unexpected times of sorrow and pain; the experience of satisfaction in the company of others while, at other times, retreating into long periods of solitude and reflection, and moments of clarity bracketed by times when I feel confused and lost. I have not been able to resolve these polarities by force or manipulation or sheer willpower – though I have certainly tried. The opposites often co-exist in exasperating ways. Grief interrupts joy, sorrow disrupts happiness, darkness interrupts light, and sometimes the necessity of solitude cuts me off from the need for meaningful relationships. But I know this, now, after 62 years: I need both, and become anxious, angry, depressed, or even sick when I resist these rhythms and fight against them. It’s easy to say “go with the flow,” but the challenge is to actually do so.
Dancing, weaving, going with the flow – knowing when to hold on, when to pursue, and when to let go — these images stir my imagination and give me a sense of hopefulness. Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Bishop in the Catholic Church, encouraged his flock to make space for God by becoming “mothers of being,” by creating space within for “nothingness,” so that God would have room to take up residence within the human heart and soul. When we learn to dance with what “is,” we can learn to weave what God gives us hourly and daily — and nightly — into a life that matters and has meaning for ourselves and for those for whom we care. Like the Writing Spider, we can weave together the various and often disparate stories of our lives into something beautiful and strong, not just for our individual journeys but for the world as well.