I’m back from a weekend away staying with my brother in Bristol. It was non-stop from the moment I walked through the door, briefly meeting housemates and then straight out, setting off on a walking tour of the city. I was led along pavements, through residential streets, along bustling high streets and around the harbour side.
It was Saturday night and the city had a buzzing, frantic energy to it. At 7pm, people stood in a drunken haze, looking vacant next to pools of sick. We saw a couple of people crouching behind a warehouse container by the side of the road. They were shooting up. Their slight, skeletal frames were silhouetted in the fading light.
I was struck by how creative and destructive energy seemed to coexist in the city. I thought about how these energies, the impulse to create and to destroy, both exist within me.
A moment of stillness came the following day when we walked past a student house and I spotted a spider making a web between a bin and a stone wall. The spider had the foundations secured and was now meticulously working its way around in circles, spiralling into the centre.
The spider was speckled brown with a big round body. It moved with speed and accuracy, dancing with silk, absorbed in its task completely. A pang of sadness struck me as I thought about the bin being moved and the web being destroyed. The fine silk strands breaking.
I admired the spider. It made me think about an idea that’s come up in The Center Within, a book I’ve been reading in one of the book study groups at the temple. The idea that you should act because your life force commands it.
The bin might move, a gust of wind might break the web and yet the spider continues spinning its web because it’s life force commands it. Something in the deep focus, single-pointed attention and devotion of the spider in amongst the noise and chaos of the city struck me as Buddhist.
The spider was just being a spider, doing its spider thing, but in that moment, to me, the spider was a perfect Buddha.
After staring in awe at the spider for some time, I glanced up and spotted someone at the window looking out at me and my brother. They were laughing, probably wondering what it was in the space between the bin and the stone wall that had us both transfixed. I laughed too and gave a little wave before carrying on walking.
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