The 13th-century Sufi mystic and poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī said that, approximately, and it’s only one of the many wise things he said. They’re also the only words of his that are given voice in the quotation-strewn disappointment that was Ava DuVernay’s cinematic version of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time.
My favorite ex-wife, the playwright Molly Rice of Pittsburgh’s Real/Time Interventions, who I was still living with many years ago when I finally read L’Engle’s classic, she has a similar quotation as part of her Facebook profile. It’s from a more easily verifiable Rumi poem called “Childhood Friends,” and the part that Molly quotes is this:
Keep looking at the bandaged place.
That’s where the light enters you.
Anyway, you get the basic idea – as did Leonard Cohen and so many others – and can appreciate that it’s a hell of a fine metaphor.
The situation is a bit more than metaphorical for the arachnids of this world, though, did you know? It’s downright literal, especially for the multitudes of spiders with all those slit sensilla patterning the outside of their bodies.
Slit sensilla are an example of what entomologists generally refer to as mechanoreceptors: sensory organs that are a working part of, or are in any case enabled via, the exoskeletons of arthropods.
It was originally thought that the sensilla were actual slits all the way through the surface of the spider – like a wound, if you get me – but further research has revealed that, no, the sensilla are just built-in thinnesses of the exoskeleton, thinnesses that abut a dense array of nerve endings and other such sensory apparatus. Thinnesses that allow the creatures to feel more deeply and precisely the vibrations of their environment.
“Kid almost started crying when I dissed his science fair project,” someone might say about a young Peter Parker, years before that fate-marked geek is chomped on by an irradiated arachnid, “he’s so fucking thin-skinned.”
Kind of like that, but accurately real: hypersensitive indentations all along the exoskeletons of spiders, and especially along their spidery, hydraulically powered legs. And the most distinctive pattern of slit sensilla is when those slits are manifest in the shape of a lyre.
You know: the stringed instrument of Orpheus in the old Greek myths. The golden lyre gifted to that greatest of musicians by the god Apollo. The same lyre that Orpheus would later use to keep the seductive Sirens from killing Jason off (and countless screaming Argonauts). The instrument that the constellation is named after – Lyra – that’s also the first name of a certain Miss Belacqua in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (the first book of which, The Golden Compass, was made into a studio-crippled yet still sufficiently wonderful cinematic version by Chris Weitz).
Belacqua – although young Lyra’s surname was superseded when the king of the panserbjørne decided that her true appellation is Silvertongue – Belacqua is, more classically, the name of a minor character in Dante Alighieri’s Purgatorio. As I gleaned this fact during one of my recent forays through Wikipedia, I was reminded of when my son was still in high school and told me that he’d just finished reading Dante’s Inferno for class.
“Yeah?” I said. “How was it?”
“Eh, you know,” he said with a shrug, “it’s Christian fanfic.”
The apple don’t fall far from the tree of knowledge, tell you what.
And it occurred to me, while thinking about the instigating texts for that divinely comedic fan fiction, that the whole Crucifixion deal was just the mythic Nazarene’s elaborate suicide-by-cop.
I mean, right?
And how often our species achieves its arcane quota of internal culling by having the more enlightened individuals, or at least the more sensitive ones, kill themselves. Like Jesus did, in my seemingly glib but quite serious interpretation; and less, ah, baroquely, Sylvia Plath and David Foster Wallace and Jack Cole and Virginia Woolf and Robin Williams and Thomas Disch and Anthony Bourdain come readily to mind.
The list goes on, of course, far beyond the pantheon of exited celebrities, and – it’s a long list, oh my darlings, it’s a long sad unceasing list.
All the people, their deeper sensilla overwhelmed with the stimuli of existence, removing themselves from this web of life while the rest of us continue to trudge or even dance along and somehow withstand all the constant microaggressions of light, of motion, of pressure, of sound. Of the hell that is, sometimes, other people.
Of, because we’re human, our own consciousness.
The rest of us. The walking wounded, as it’s said. Who would do well to keep their eyes on the bandaged place.