Of Fresh Starts and Spider Webs

During my weekly run around around Rock Creek Farms today, I couldn’t help but reflect on new beginnings. The day was perfect. Cool and crisp, smelling of grass (and manure), I could feel the dew through my shoes without my feet actually getting wet. As I looked around, I saw new growth everywhere…and then I got a face full of spider web.

The trails that I run are more like corridors, with tall vegetation on either side. During the winter, the usually hard-working arachnid population lies dormant, but when spring arrives and they see a beautiful day like today, they awaken from their slumber and resume the loom.

I imagine the spiders and I are thinking the same thing: “What an amazing day, marking the beginning of a new year, full of new possibilities.” And then I imagine we think the same thing as I come crashing face-first through each finely woven tapestry: “Aw crap! Not again!”


What is the lesson here?

It is the Spring, and not January, that is the best time to think about the year ahead, and to really consider how to optimize one’s performance in pursuit of particular goals. It is a time for pruning, for clearing out old growth so that the new can flourish, while at the same time continuing to build upon existing foundations. Spring is full of possibilities, and, for me, is a time of tremendous optimism. Anything seems possible. But, as enlivened by possibility as we may feel, it’s important to remember two things:

1. There are always spider webs. There are always going to be inconveniences. No matter how straight the path might be, there are always going to be inconveniences and frustrations that you won’t see or anticipate. Half way through my run, I was half inclined to stop, turn around, and buy a treadmill. But to put an end to an otherwise well-conceived plan because of a few minor frustrations would have been silly.

2. There are always spider webs. As we pursue our own plans, with excitement and a single-minded sense of focus, we must constantly bear in mind that our actions have consequences for others. When inconvenienced by the spiderwebs of life, we must remember that the things that we do to achieve or own designs may at times be destructive of the designs of others. Just as spider webs may be inconvenient, so too can they be inconvenienced. The greatest obstacles we face as we pursue our goals will be a function of the goals of others.

What, then, are we to do about the spider webs of life? We shouldn’t seek to avoid them entirely, since doing so would mean giving up on our goals, making sacrifices that would radically limit the scope of our ambition. Nor should we ignore them, closing our eyes, holding our breath, and simply crash on through. Instead, we should be vigilant in our pursuits, looking out for inconveniences as we approach them in order that we might, neither avoid nor destroy, but rather negotiate them as we navigate a space we share with others.