As readers may recall, I am afraid of spiders. Really afraid.1 But because I live in a house, I have to live with them a lot, especially in my garage. My garage has some junk and furniture left by the last owners and I know the spiders have nests there. Sometimes they also leave the garage and get into our house somehow so we find them in various rooms in the house. After we had our vents cleaned out by a professional, the spiders started less often though, so I think many of them were living in our heating vents.
Anyhow, the spiders in our house have been typical Giant House Spiders, which are common in the Seattle area.2 They are harmless, but they’re big and pretty fast and sometimes they’ll run through a room pretty quick. We used to have a colony of them in the garage, so I hated to lift any boxes or cardboard, because a Giant House Spider would almost always appear under it, and then run around to find a new place to hide. Because they’re big and they move fast, it always startled me.
I used to kill these spiders regularly. I really couldn’t stand them. But then after I formally took the Five Precepts of Buddhism, I decided I’d really try my best and not kill them. Giant House Spiders can’t live out in the woods, so rather than sending them to their doom outside, I would just scoop them up and put them back into the garage. I knew they eat other insects, so I decided that I would have to learn to live with them and let them do their job.
It wasn’t easy at first. I didn’t like to get close to them, and I was afraid they would escape while I was carrying them. But I found a cup that we never use, which is narrow at the top, so I use that to get the spiders and safely carry them back out into the garage.
But recently, I started noticing different spiders in the garage and in our house: Daddy Long-Leg Spiders. Here’s a video I took of one in our garage (my daughter is talking in the background) using my iPhone:
This is a Daddy Long-Legs Spider, which is a well-known species. I noticed that all the Giant House Spiders started disappearing this year, and Daddy Long-Legs appear often now. According to Wikipedia, Daddy Long-Legs prey on other spiders including the Giant House Spider, so to me this was a good thing. I find the Daddy Long-Legs less intimidating than the Giant House Spiders, so while I don’t like any spiders, I think I can live with my new neighbors.
I remember when I used to live in Vietnam as a student, they had lizards all over the walls. A lot of tropical places have them, and they’re definitely bigger than spiders. They would make chirping noises or do other things, and bothered me a lot because I felt like they were intruders, even though they don’t hurt people. I guess I feel the same way about spiders sometimes.
Speaking of intruders, I have a mole in my yard. I find mole-hills often all over my yard, but of course I never see the mole itself. I was concerned at first, because the moles are making a mess all over the place, so I read some good articles about moles, and most recommend ways to repel or kill moles. I don’t really want to kill them and the repellant methods don’t seem very effective. Then I read a couple articles that suggest that moles are good for the yard because they eat lots of insects and help bring air to the soil.
The mole in my yard doesn’t really cause any problems, so as with the spiders, I’ve learned to live with them.
Looking back on all this, I understand more and more why the Buddha taught the Five Precepts. The Five Precepts were never intended as rules in the sense of other religions, but instead are intended as “personal commitments” or “personal vows”, which have some kind of positive benefit toward others and yourself.
I’m glad I decided to stop killing them because as time goes on, I feel that they’re helping around the house in their own way. Because I leave the spiders alone, I don’t have to worry about earwigs, termites or other things. They usually regulate themselves. Likewise, the mole in my yard is probably helping me even if I don’t notice it. In both cases, the spiders and moles are doing what they naturally do. They don’t intend to annoy me or cause me grief, but somehow we work out a way of living together. I don’t like them, but I try to maintain a sense of goodwill.
This notion of metta or “goodwill” in Buddhism, isn’t a weepy or emotional kind of compassion. It’s just a calm, cool sense of well-being for others. Rather than having ill-will toward spiders, I try to have good will. You might not get along with them, but you wish them well.
This helps me too, because I don’t feel like my house is under siege anymore. I used to be terrified if I went into the garage because I expected to see more spiders all the time (and I did), but now I just get used to it. I see Daddy Long-Legs regularly when I pick up things in the garage and it still startles me, but I grumble to myself and leave them alone.
It’s not a perfect situation, but I’ve learned to live with it. Compared to a year and a half ago, it’s an improvement.
Namu Shaka Nyorai
1 Funny story, after I wrote this post, the next day I was in the kitchen making a sandwich. A medium-sized spider ran across the counter, and I was so startled, I screamed for a moment. :p I grumbled and swore for a minute, but I scooped up the spider and put him outside.
2 They’re also common in Northern Europe. I saw one in my apartment when I lived in Ireland. I was awake early in the morning because I was oncall and was paged. I was all by myself at 4am, when a big Giant House Spider ran across the room. I was sleepy and terrified. After a while, I finally found it and killed it, but it was a long 30 minutes. 😦