Spiders and Eucharist, Together at Last

If you want to convince yourself of the incarnational quality of this existence, I suggest the Nature Channel, especially when it’s live at your house. A big spider has been hanging out in my front window, and this week I watched her spin her web. (OK Australians, not as big as your spiders but bigger than your average household arachnid. And yes, clearly it’s a she because Charlotte’s Web.)

How differently would we conceive of everything if we used the bottom of our abdomens not to expel waste products but to craft a tool that sustained our lives? If we had eight dexterous extremities that bent in all sorts of creepy ways? Nothing would be the same, beginning with the non-creepiness of the leg bending.

Our bodies determine how we experience this world. At church, some people are not well enough to walk to the front to receive Communion, and so we bring it to them. I don’t always respond with compassion to others’ infirmities and had to remind myself to see beyond one woman’s failing body to the divinity within her.

Then my perception shifted, and I realized that God isn’t separate from her aging. We don’t share in divinity despite our physical state but rather through our physical state, whatever it happens to be.

God is very much in our physical nature. How could it be otherwise when that nature shapes our relationship to reality? It’s not the only thing affecting that relationship, but it’s always part of the equation. We can change our attitudes and attachments, but if you’re six feet tall, life will always look different than if you’re five foot two—or if you happen to spin webs for a living.

And it is in this life, shaped by this physical reality, shared with these spiders, that we encounter the holy. God is at our fingertips and in our fingertips. We don’t have to go anywhere or change anything to find what we’re seeking. We can recognize its presence as our own.

Comfort Food

I don’t know about you, but I needed a Julie Andrews moment today:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.

I know we had a moment a few weeks back with the apple strudel, but today I was thinking about comfort; we turn to these very concrete things when we need comforting. Personally I go for hot chocolate or homemade macaroni and cheese.

This is what baby blankets and favorite sweatshirts are all about. It is why we get on airplanes we will complain about later and travel thousands of miles to visit friends and family. It is the magic that printed books and hand-written letters still hold. It is the reason my purring cat was not immediately booted off my lap when he started to bat at me while I typed.

I don’t know anyone who, when the world is weighing heavily, prefers a philosophy book to a cup of tea with a friend. I hope even those who have known suffering and grief I can’t imagine or understand can touch things that comfort them.

And yet my relationship to the physical is often one of obligation or control. I tell myself, sternly, to eat four servings of vegetables a day (rarely happens) or to water the plants so I don’t feel guilty about killing them. It would be so much more life-giving—to me and the plants—to spend a little time admiring how beautiful they are or to be aware for a few breaths that I am so connected to them that I am breathing in what they recently breathed out.

My most joyful moments arise when I am physically present with other people or with nature, so why not trust that? Please pass the brownies.