Once upon a time a lovely and unremarkable spider, Theo (not poisonous, not mean-spirited, just your typical fly- and gnat-eating spider), sat in his web, thinking.
Theo thought about lots of things, but mostly Theo thought about spider enlightenment. He had read many books written by other wise spiders who had realized their true nature. In the spider world, this is called “living from the center of your web.” Nearly all of the books Theo read (and he read a lot because of his multiple spider eyes) told him in one way or another that the center of his web was empty and to simply return to the center of his web and stay there.
“Easy for the enlightened spiders to say!” Theo thought, “But I can’t find the center of my web!” Theo was miserable and desperate.
He looked high and low for his web’s center. He did a number of the practices suggested by other wise spiders. He watched his breath. He labeled his thoughts. He felt his legs. He closed his eyes and repeated a secret mantra. He went on retreat with other wiser spiders and listened to them describe the center of their webs and what it was like when they first “realized the center.” Theo prayed to the Absolute Arachnid for wisdom to find the center of his web. Nothing happened.
For a while, he decided to forget the search for the center and just ate flies and gnats and other assorted bugs willy-nilly without concern for his health or any other spider’s inconvenience. Yet, Theo always returned to the search for the center of his web.
As he looked about his world, searching longer and harder for the center, he created a larger and larger web. Each time something came floating or flying into his web Theo would leap forward fast as a…um, well, spider. The web caught all kinds of things, some of them useful (edible is a better description) and some of them just distractions – tree fluff, bits of leaves, dust, and sparkling drops of dew – none particularly
And, as Theo continued his search, he spun a larger and larger web each time he jumped to see whatever his ever-growing web caught. Through his search, his web caught even more and he found himself leaping more and more, faster and farther, with each web-quiver. He became exquisitely sensitive to the most minute web tremor. And, each time he jumped to explore whatever bit of fluff had floated into his web, it grew larger.
Other spiders admired his vast web as well as all that it caught. Theo became rich in spiderweb-stuff; but, Theo knew he hadn’t found what he was looking for – the center of his web, spider enlightenment.
Time wore on and Theo grew older. He couldn’t spring to the far reaches of his web as easily or as quickly or as often as he used to when he was a younger spider. Theo knew that time was no longer on his side. He thought, “I am so tired. I can no longer jump to every bit of fluff that tickles my web. I just can’t do this anymore.” He could still feel the web-tremors but he had given up hope that he would ever find the center of his web out there on the fringes. The sometimes beautiful, sometimes drab, sometimes useful and sometimes useless bits and flecks that tickled his web had never led him closer to the center.
Dejected and exhausted from his search, Theo just stopped. He needed rest. And then…with all of his spider eyes downcast, Theo saw below him…Nothing! He looked closely and realized that he was sitting in the center of his web at that very moment! It was this Nothing that held the rest of his web together. Absolutely everything in Theo’s web universe was spun directly from this very Nothing. It was Nothing that was supporting him at that very moment. Theo had been sitting on top of it all the time! What he was looking for was right under his nose (well, you know, that thing spiders have)!
Theo saw that Everything depended on Nothing!
Theo thought, “Every time I went out looking for the center, I just moved further away from it. As soon as I stopped looking and jumping at every web tremor and just rested, I was resting in the very center Itself.” It was only Theo’s search that made it seem that the center wasn’t there – but it had been there all the time.
Many spiders realized that something was different about Theo. They didn’t see him jumping about his web anymore. He didn’t seem particularly interested in the various bits of fuzz and fluff that tickled his web. They assumed that Theo had simply lost his drive and ambition. They were right.
Now and then, other spiders who were searching as Theo had searched came to visit. They asked him how he had realized his center. He told them that it had been there all the time and that it was no less true for them than it was for him. Other spiders asked him, “How did you feel when your spider realization happened?” “Embarrassed,” was his usual reply. He did what he could to point out the Central Nothing that was holding the Great Everything together. Theo would say, “Describing Nothing is not easy – try it sometime!”
Theo watched as a lucrative fluff-and-fuzz web industry grew around the searching. He knew that the fluff-and-fuzz just served to distract seekers from Nothing as they searched for more of Everything.
Some “got it.” Some didn’t. Theo knew it really didn’t matter because the Central Nothing was cradling them all anyway. And, regardless of “getting it” or not, a spider could still enjoy a nice juicy fly now and then as well as the swaying of his web in the breeze. Really, what more did a spider need, anyway?