Study this photograph carefully. Really look at the detail.
My niece Emily is a professional photographer, and today on Facebook she posted a shot of a spider web that had manifested inside of her automobile. Here is the photo. If you look carefully you can see the detail of the intricate web. Her comment that accompanied this photo was: “Grateful to have been paying attention when getting into my vehicle. This lovely specimen had made it's web from my steering wheel to my headrest. Would have received a face-full of arachnid had I not seen it!”
I was struck by the enlightenment of this observation and I was impressed that she took time to report this moment with her social network. There are at least two important lessons in this story. First, it is our attention that is our first line of safety. Careless attention is a common cause of accidents and overall screw-ups. Careful attention has prevented many a hazard. Alertness is a key factor in negotiating the ups and downs of life. Spiders, slippery stairs, roadblocks, faulty handles, electrical cords in disarray, poison oak on the path, unpaid bills . . . you can see where I am going. Attention to what is actually happening right now is central to our ability to make sensible choices that avoid obvious consequences: late fees on unpaid bills and overdue library books, tripping and falling over obstacles, ending up in the hospital with a rash.
Of course not all disasters can be foreseen. Even the most alert driver may be struck by someone who isn’t paying attention, driving too fast and who pulled out of a blind alley. Crash. But common sense tells us that attention is our most accurate defense strategy. So, wake up . . . a lot . . . in order to stay safe.
The second lesson leads us into the quality of life, into pleasure. Not only did Emily miss a spider in the face and hair, she was able to stop and marvel at the miracle of it all. In less than 12 hours this tiny creature had spun a fourteen inch diameter web reaching from the headrest to the steering wheel. Oh, wondrous life. The cliché that reminds us to “smell the roses” comes to mind. How often do we speed through our days missing these precious reminders of the diversity and magic of our planet. What is life if we don’t take the moment to see it. Attention. Attention. Attention. It’s all we have.
I am grateful to Emily’s spider friend and to her for reminding us to “slow down and notice the cobwebs.” Blessed attention.