Nearly everyone I know has an irrational fear of spiders. In fact, most of my friends and relatives react to spiders by terminating them with extreme prejudice. This is a shame. Spiders are noble, innocent, misunderstood creatures. I’m fond of the little guys, and I think they deserve better than to be slaughtered without pity or remorse.
I grew up in Ecuador: a tiny country with a bewildering variety of birds, animals, insects, and other creatures, including several species of spiders. At one point in Quito, my family and I had tarantulas burrowing in our back garden. No spider ever did me harm. Other bugs attacked me, such as mosquitoes; still more tried unsuccessfully to hurt me, such as scorpions and a Giant Mutant Killer Jungle Ant, but spiders were contented to mind their own business and leave me alone.
Most people refuse to return that favor. A friend of mine, whom I’ll call Socrates, once tried incinerating a spider with a flamethrower cobbled together from a lighter and a can of cooking spray. Other friends—less creative than Socrates, but just as violent—have wielded books and shoes in their bloodthirsty crusade against spiders.
Heck, even J.R.R. Tolkien, a man of enormous creative genius and one of my heroes, hated spiders. A childhood encounter with a tarantula traumatized him for life. His arachnophobia surfaced in his stories; his most famous books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, both feature wicked giant spiders.
As much as I admire Tolkien, I think E.B. White was closer to the truth when he wrote Charlotte’s Web, a children’s book about a sweet, noble friend who happens to be a spider.
Charlotte is basically any and every spider: hardworking and considerate, spinning beautiful webs to rid the world of pests like flies and mosquitoes. E.B. White understood, guys.
Flipping heck, even cartoons for young children get it.
Spiders quietly eliminate true pests. Have you ever tried sleeping with a cloud of mosquitoes buzzing around your ears? I have. It sucks. Have you ever been annoyed by flies, stung by bees, or menaced by cockroaches? I have. It sucks. (Cockroaches, my archenemies, are the worst creatures on God’s green earth.) Spiders prevent the proliferation of these wretched beasties. If spiders did not exist, the world would be overrun by filthy pests. Spiders are God’s guardian angels.
Look, I get it. Spiders look scary. They have a lot of legs and too many eyes, and the way they move is a little creepy. Spiders are odd-looking. However, if it were okay to kill things just because they looked odd, Pete Docter would have been murdered ages ago, and Pixar’s Inside Out (which Docter directed and co-wrote) would never have been made. So there.
If we killed everything that looked weird or made us uncomfortable, I probably wouldn’t have made it to my teens.
Yes, some spiders are venomous. Some can kill you. Do you know what else can kill you? Donkeys. (They have a vicious kick.) Human beings also kill each other occasionally, but I like to think most of us aren’t so bad—and neither are most spiders.
So the next time you want to slaughter a spider out of fear or disgust, consider showing some mercy and putting it outside instead!