Wheels within wheels
I’m not a Hindu or a Buddhist and never will be. But I have borrowed something from them and I’m not sorry. It’s a word and a shape:
Mandala (Sanskrit: Maṇḍala, ‘circle’) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the Universe. (Wikipedia)
It’s also a spiderweb. Not every mandala you see on the Internet looks spidery, but they all suggest the identical cosmic micro-focus—the radial lines and paths, the corners and turning points, the mystery of who waits in the center, the truth that something barely there and supremely beautiful will blow away tomorrow. But endure. Mandalas guide the quest for insight.
Dr. Internet says mandalas are visual signposts in the Christian view too—some people see sacred spirals in rose windows and Celtic crosses. They’re even found in Jung’s overgrown garden of myth.
A spider doesn’t care what psychologists or monks think about circles and spirals. The first principle that leads a spider around her spinning wheel is simple hunger—or even, deeper than hunger, unremembered memories from spiders eons older who were hungry, and who turned within webs, and lived. She doesn’t know beauty or utility. She knows food and unimaginable patience. A week before the Bodhi tree would be less than a wink from her unblinking eyes.
The remote being at the center—we can never know how she gauges the physical strains, and measures the yawning canyons she has to bridge, and chooses her materials and gates, and pivots and dances to draw that silken mandala—the one that’s more perfect for being imperfect.
A machine could draw a perfect circle. But an orb web unique to its place, unique to its hour, then destroyed and forgotten … that’s art and science, devotion … futility.
So I meditate on the mandala in my yard, and the mute worker who labors over it. I suppose I have to call it meditation, damn the woo. If that’s not enough to dazzle my brain shut, I repeat these words: four hundred million years. Four hundred million years. The lives of this animal, this adept.