Spider Woman Weaves the World

“Schopenhauer, in his splendid essay called “On an Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual,” points out that when you reach an advanced age and look back over your lifetime, it can seem to have had a consistent order and plan, as though composed by some novelist. Events that when they occurred had seemed accidental and of little moment turn out to have been indispensable factors in the composition of a consistent plot. So who composed that plot? Schopenhauer suggests that just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself of which your consciousness is unaware, so, too, your whole life is composed by the will within you. And just as people whom you will have met apparently by mere chance became leading agents in the structuring of your life, so, too, will you have served unknowingly as an agent, giving meaning to the lives of others, The whole thing gears together like one big symphony, with everything unconsciously structuring everything else. And Schopenhauer concludes that it is as though our lives were the features of the one great dream of a single dreamer in which all the dream characters dream, too; so that everything links to everything else, moved by the one will to life which is the universal will in nature.

It’s a magnificent idea – an idea that appears in India in the mythic image of the Net of Indra, which is a net of gems, where at every crossing of one thread over another there is a gem reflecting all the other reflective gems. Everything arises in mutual relation to everything else, so you can’t blame anybody for anything. It is even as though there were a single intention behind it all, which always makes some kind of sense, though none of us knows what the sense might be, or has lived the life that he quite intended.” – Joseph Campbell

I love this idea. It resonates with me in a deep way. The idea of the Net of Indra or the Web of the Spider Woman are very ancient ideas and one’s that are more in tune with our current experiences of the world. We now have the Internet of Humanity – and not just in technological terms.

My grandmother had a loom at her house. A colossus that took up almost an entire shed. And each time I think of this idea of inter-contentedness, I am reminded of that dusty old thing. I like to spend my own time at my computer-loom, weaving a story about it. A story which, like life, might never be done and will always be in the process of creation. Think back, not just to the history of your own life, but the history of all the lives that went into making you in one way or another and you may see each of those pearls on the Net of Indra, or the dew drops on the web of the spider woman, glittering in the light of being. Look forward and you can imagine that old, wise Navajo woman sitting at her loom, weaving the web of the world. Everything we touch and every thing that touches us creates something new.

Not many people leave comments on my blog, but I receive lots of emails. This was one a got a few weeks back: “Hi! Just read a few of your posts. I like them, you have always been a gifted writer. (I hope you have saved some of your stories you wrote) One gave me a memory of a present you once gave me…. a statue, do you remember her? You gave her to me because you thought she was wonderful looking. Turned out, she is the goodess of fertility…. and I have 4 kids. The statue is now at my mom and dad’s house. Blessings always, J”

The Self-Writing Universe: For the Eternally Curious

Phil Scanlan, in his intriguing new book, The Self-Writing Universe, suggests viewing the beginnings of creation as if it were a computer’s start-up script. As strange as that may sound, stranger still is that his premises make sense.

The Self-Writing Universe considers the most confounding puzzle we can ask ourselves – how and why is there anything at all instead of simply nothingness? This is the classical puzzle of creation and existence. Generations of human thought have thus far produced the following stalemate: belief in an irrational endless regress or belief in an impossible beginning. Neither theory provides a satisfying answer. Perhaps it’s time for a fresh take? In the The Self-Writing Universe network administrator Phil Scanlan offers an insightful twist on the age-old problem by asking “Why not view the puzzle as though it were a computer script that managed to write itself and see what happens?”

The Self-Writing Universe distinguishes between theories of existence and theories of the Big Bang, concluding that theories of the Big Bang are inadequate to resolve the paradox of existence. All versions of the Big Bang theory rely on an initial something, typically a quantum vacuum, to explain the beginning. “From a logical standpoint, this is plainly contradictory and incomplete.” Scanlan contends that for the big bang theory to actually explain existence it can’t first presume the very quantum realm that needs explaining! In contrast, The Self-Writing Universe views existence as a script, a script that is logically forced to write itself, the behavior of which is metaphorically said to be like that of a script found in a computer.

In Scanlan’s approach, the fact that there’s existence and not non-existence is merely due to some line of executable code that makes existence inevitable. The Self-Writing Universeconsiders what that code must be like. But isn’t this just another attempt to explain existence by first assuming an existing thing, in this case, a line of executable code? Scanlan’s answer to this question, and to how the code got there, may surprise you and may just tickle your brain in a most agreeable way.

While acknowledging that the question posed is empirically unanswerable, The Self-Writing Universe nevertheless introduces a satisfying way of looking at an ancient imponderable, bringing comprehensibility on a topic that has long been hidden in shadow. The resulting insight is as unique as it is powerful. – Amazon.com

Spider Woman, A Story of Navajo Weavers and Chanters 

Gladys Reichard was born in Bangor, PA on July 17, 1893. She got a B.A. from Swarthmore, then studied under Franz Boas at Columbia University. She taught at Barnard College. Reichard was one of the foremost authorities on the Navajo; she spent 25 years doing research on the Navajo reservation. She eventually learned to speak the complex Navajo language fluently. We are fortunate that this, her ethnography of Navajo weavers and herders, Spider Woman fell into the public domain. In this book, Reichard explores the intersection between the fiber arts, mythology, and sand painting, all told in first person. It succeeds as an ethnographic technical document and, although completely factual, reads like a novel. But this is also significant because it is a woman anthropologist exploring the world of Navajo women, their material and spiritual culture. Reichard died on July 25th, 1955 in Flagstaff, AZ. –J.B. Hare – Amazon.com


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