Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Strand of Web

I saw a piece of dandelion fluff this morning. It was stuck to a single strand of spiderweb, tenuously strewn between two walls of my enclosed porch. As I noticed it thrumming back and forth in the breeze, a powerful thought struck me.

Life is just as precious and fragile. Though circumstances have changed in a way that dramatically shows this by contrast, it's as true as it has always been. The zombie plague has thrown the eventual survival of humanity into question. Those of us left behind are like the piece of dandelion fluff, a seed that holds the possibility of survival for humankind.

The dead walk among us, hungry and terrible. They are to be pitied as much as they are to be feared. They are the breeze that shakes us, one of many things that threatens all we have worked toward. The recent storms and the damage they've wrought serve to show us that there are many things to fear beside the undead. The rage of nature is always an obvious terror, as are the zombies themselves. But just as dangerous are more subtle threats--disease, despair, darkness of the human soul.

What we are and what we face are two of the more obvious parts of this weird realization. The fluff, a piece of potential that faces the wind which threatens it. The most powerful part of that single moment for me wasn't seeing the struggle of we human survivors against powerful forces in that one image. It was realizing that what kept the fluff safe, what held it aloft in defiance of the wind, was a strand of something so thin that it was invisible yet so strong that it couldn't be broken.

What is it that keeps us going? What is the name of the force inside all of us that has driven humanity to survive through all of the horrors and disasters throughout our history? I once said on this blog that I had read somewhere that all the billions of people alive had come from a near-extinction event that left a mere six thousand of us alive. My god--what sheer force of will it must have taken those six thousand to struggle on. to hunt and farm, to make the awful choices they likely faced. Where did it come from? Where did they find the strength?

An animal will, if injured badly enough, lay down and die. Some people will too. So many of us, however, will choose to fight. Clawing and scratching for every moment of existence. We do it for ourselves on one level, and for those we love on another. I think that deep down, below all that, we find wells of determination and grit that spring from the simple urge to see our species survive. I don't know if that makes us unique in the animal kingdom, but it does make me proud.

It's almost profound in its simplicity, and enormously complex in its implications. Life is persistent and powerful in all its many forms. Human life is difficult and frightening, especially now, yet we do not lay down and accept that it can overwhelm us.

What holds people together is impossible to see until something comes along and shakes us. When we are under strain from something awful, the edges of what binds us can just be glimpsed. It is that resistance that shows us that our bonds are real. Call it hope or determination or whatever you like--it's something that all of us share with each other, making a net so strong that only total destruction of our species could break it.

Only a day after the last storm, and that single strand of web was there. Did it survive the wind and rain? Did some enterprising spider decide to rebuild it so quickly?

We have rebuilt. We have survived storms.

A thought, from a single strand of web.

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