Every year at about this time, spiders build a community of webs on my ninth floor balcony. For a while I wasn't sure why they did this; then I realized that late September always brings clouds of tiny flies that are drawn to the lights and fruits in my apartment. The clever spiders climb up the building in the hope of capturing an easy meal.
A couple of weeks ago on a particularly warm evening, I approached my window air conditioner to bask in the cool breeze—but what I saw dangling on the other side of the window gave me a much deeper chill. Suspended in the center of an elaborate web was one of the biggest, hairiest, most intimidating spiders I had ever laid eyes on. His home stretched on for miles(at least a spider's equivalent), putting all of his neighbors' efforts to shame. I knew right then and there that I had come face to face with the leader of the spider community.
After taking a few deep breaths I moved in for a closer look, pressing my nose right up to the glass.
The spider quickly twitched and jerked along the silky threads. I didn't know what frightened me more, the sheer size of this fellow, or the fact that he was conscious of my looming presence. What I did know was that he needed a name, and Orvis seemed like a perfect fit—Orvis the Spider.
I watched Orvis every day for the next week. Sometimes he made minor repairs to his palace. Sometimes he dined on fresh fly cuisine. But most of the time he remained completely still and vigilant, hallmark traits of a master trapper.
Orvis did extremely well for himself. While the other spiders struggled to collect enough food, Orvis had more than enough to eat; in fact, his web grew so heavy with flies that it began to sag. This might sound silly, but I actually felt sorry for his neighbors—with only ten percent of the community wealth divvied between them, they lived much like peasants in the shadow of a billionaire.
A few days passed without any thought of my eight-legged friends. Then one afternoon I opened the curtains to reveal a most shocking sight: Orvis was gone! And not only was he gone, but a much smaller spider had taken over his web!
I wondered what happened to Orvis. Did he lose a fight to this little guy? Surely not. Did he go on vacation? If so, how would he react to finding a squatter in his palace?
Envisioning one hell of a battle in the near future, I spread the curtains as wide as possible for the show. That's when I noticed Orvis sitting way up in the top corner of my window. He hadn't gone on vacation and he didn't appear to be upset. Orvis had simply relocated, building himself a tiny home that had not yet collected a single fly.
I stood there wondering why on earth he abandoned his fortune, why he chose lack over abundance. It seemed rather odd, because in many human societies material wealth is used to measure self-worth. There is often an I, a Me, a My attached to our possessions, and even a relatively small loss can result in a painful sense of personal diminishment.
As I watched him sitting all alone in that humble web, it suddenly dawned on me that, unlike people, Orvis has no sense of self, no I attached to his current home or level of wealth. Driven only by instinct and free of thought, he takes what he needs and leaves what he does not.
I couldn't help but smile at my friend Orvis, who at that moment reminded me of something that's so easy to forget: who we are has nothing to do with what we own, and everything to do with simply knowing that.