Nature is a fascinating thing, but it’s also incredibly cruel, vicious and violent. Nature shows on television often show lions and tigers bringing down gazelles and wildebeests, but by far the most compelling example of it’s cruelty in my opinion can be found on your own backyard in the simple garden spider.
Have you ever tossed a moth into it’s web, just to watch? It sits in the center, totally inanimate, as if not living at all. But when the moth hits the web, with lightning speed it shambles over like some horrid monster and bows it’s head into the moth’s abdomen multiple times, biting it to stun it. It’s legs curl inward in a sickening kneading embrace. Once the moth has been stunned the spider bites and holds to inject its venom, then dexterously wraps the moth in it’s silken web with it’s rear legs, while it’s forelegs turn the moth like a spindle being rewound. Once secured the spider simply returns to the center of the web, while the venom slowly liquefies the moths’ insides.
The scale of it takes away some of it’s shocking nature. But imagine being in the moth’s place. You land in the web and immediately an eight legged, eight eyed nightmare rushes up and starts burying massive fangs into you. I wonder if one had the proper equipment, could you actually hear the mind-numbing, terror-filled shrieks of the moth as it is being eaten alive?
So sure, nature is fascinating, but I’ve often thought perhaps there’s more cruelty encompassed in a placid forest than you would find in a concentration camp. And that’s considering a concentration camp is designed to be cruel while nature is just about survival — Schopenhauer’s blind “will to life.”
Here’s a poem I wrote on this a couple years ago:
A Nightly Show
Have you ever put a moth in a spider’s web?
Just to calmly observe a small murder there,
Wisely building near lamps at day’s ebb,
Stoically exploiting instinct with it’s glare,
Hanging as if it had never been alive,
But animated by a delicate silk touch,
Smoldering instinct aflame in it’s dive,
As flapping victim’s held in a loving clutch,
Legs form a tight and horrid menaced curl,
Respectfully bows head with venomous breath,
Dexterous like kneading dough as victims twirl,
As delirious wings bat dusty flight to death,
To wonder what’s heard in that alien world,
Shrieking, thrashing, eaten-raw death wails,
If only I had ears to hear the sounds hurled,
And know brutality on such a scale,
Satisfied that it’s meal’s securely in wrap,
That all battles are for the time, resolved,
Creeps back to perch at the hub of it’s trap,
Epitome of efficiency can’t evolve,
Why perversely watch things so small?
Not for noble study or mere cruelty to appall,
It’s just to see reality that makes my skin crawl,
At a show nature put’s on nightly, free for all.
Of course this poem can’t compare with Robert Frosts’ “Design” but I think it’s fairly effective. (For the record I hadn’t read “Design” at the time I wrote it.) I am more concerned with the sheer horror of the thing itself while Frost is pointing more toward the design of this world; when we find such cruelty on even that minuscule a level, what does that say about the world at large?
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth —
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth —
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.