Why a Spider Web is the Best Way to Explain Morality in Nature and Society?

Annemarie Berukoff
5 min readAug 29, 2020

The Sun God imagined the creatures of the earth, and Spider Woman turned these thoughts into living plants, animals, and people. She attached a thread of her spider silk to each person to provide access to her wisdom and protection. Southwestern Native legend

Spider Woman is an important figure in the mythology, oral traditions and folklore of many Native American cultures, especially in the Southwestern United States. She had a role in the creation of the earth and continued to protect her people by teaching them to grow corn, make clay pots, and spin and weave. Through her silk threads she maintained the connections of all humankind.

In many ways the spider’s web can be used as an excellent moral metaphor for our society.

So much of our social nature is based on moral behavior with our language, laws, institutions, and culture which has allowed humanity to cooperate and progress. We like to collaborate as individuals with common intentions and work together for mutual benefits.

Two morals stand out in a community:

  1. sympathy … the concern and respect for other beings
  2. fairness the idea that everyone should get what they deserve

Undoubtedly, our society is changing dramatically with technology and, perhaps, this sense of innate community values may be buried under layers of social demands, expectations and exploitation. Do you think that today’s culture encourages the pursuit of self-interest for selfish benefits and to persuade others they are morally right to do so?

The problem is that we have a world of connections at our fingertips to collaborate and help resolve common society’s and environmental issues with understanding and fairness; but, too many times, the narrow focus is on tribes, partisanship, nationalism and ideological differences.

Perhaps it’s the right time to see how nature’s intricate knowledge makes a spider’s web to lead to the question about the webs in our lives.

A spider needs a dinner trap so he follows a genetic code of radii and spirals to create his sticky orb. The silk thread is produced in special silk glands and physically pulled through a set of spinnerets on the abdomen to transform the liquid silk into solid threads. Once the first lightweight thread is started, the spider lifts his spinnerets into the breeze so it can swing and anchor itself unto a tree branch. Then he can use the thread to “tightrope walk” from one tree to another.

Some amazing facts about spiders just because Nature is omnipotent:

  • Many spiders build new webs each night or day, depending on when they hunt.
  • Spiders silk is strong, tensile and flexible. This amazing material is about twice as strong as steel (when comparing the same mass of both).
  • Some spiders eat their webs, replenishing their silk supply material (protein).
  • Webs can be used for transport from one high point to another called ballooning or kiting.

Some amazing weaving skills:

  • The first strand of silk is called the bridge thread.
  • The second strand becomes the center point from which other radial spokes are anchored to surrounding vegetation.
  • A spiral thread starts from the inside and moves out to bind all the radial threads together.
  • A second spiral web is made from sticky silk from the outside in that is used to capture prey.

The web’s structure is fragile, practical and framed by previous experience where its many strands pass through a central point. It symbolizes patience and persistence because of its unique technique of setting webs and weaving its own world of survival.

It is a simple extrapolation to think about what kinds of webs Nature would weave compared to people’s webs of business, consumerism and culture. This strange integration would be a compilation of at least three subsets.

  1. Nature’s strands would include climate, clean water, food security, ecosystems, diversity, adaptation, recycling, and environment.

2. Business strands would include industry, technology, manufacturing, transportation, pollution, education, and science.

3.People’s strands would include malls, shopping, advertisements, money, credit, recreation, self-ego, virtual reality, friends and culture.

The future challenge, I believe, it is more important than ever to integrate Nature’s web partnerships in a world that is hyper-globalized and hyper-connected. No one country can do it alone. These threats are happening now and need immediate mitigation steps: unchecked industrialization, degradation of natural habitats, destructive agriculture, pollution of entire seas, ozone depletion, and global warming. As any one strand in any subset breaks at a time, the composite whole collapses.

As complicated as these webs become, there needs to be center focus, some sense of affinity that all strands are parts of a shared community and biology.

It is not a great mystery but a reality that we are not separate beings, a physical body unto ourselves, but our awareness and existence are to share the energy of life with others.

Our center is to live with purpose and promise, to learn lessons, to face challenges and to seek balance and order.

The more we learn about nature’s incredible knowledge, the more we understand that everything in Nature is interconnected and must never be subordinated to human activity.

Like the Spider Woman teaches us … the past, the present, and the future of every animate and inanimate being in our universe, including human beings, is defined by its interconnection to everything else. If any of these links are broken, Nature at any scale will change or simply not operate.

And so, the spider web becomes a theme in a simple love story as told by a birch tree called Birchum who cares about family, community and environment.

What are your fair and sympathetic connections with Nature?

“And here’s the point, my dear Birchum, as you can see, every thread is connected to every other thread. If you shake one, all the others shake. If you break one, the others break, too.

The web has one purpose, Birchum, as varied and profound as it is, it can only catch one thing without breaking. And it’s not a physical thing. It is a feeling that moves the spirit to connect, unite and flourish. It is called love. Sometimes it takes great imagination to see how we are all connected by love.”

Excerpt: Ecological Succession of Birchum Birch

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Annemarie Berukoff

Retired teacher — Affiliate Marketer, Big Picture Wisdom, author 4 e-books: social media teens, eco-fiction ecology https://helpfulmindstreamforchanges.com