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The Philosopher and the Spider

The Philosopher and the Spider

The spider was trapped,

under the rim of the urinal.

We don’t know its origin,

or its means of arrival.

 

The spider didn’t know

when it had begun.

The spider didn’t know

when it would end.

The spider hunkered down,

not far from the u-bend.

 

Its daily weather forecast:

intermittent showers, of golden rain.

We don’t know if it felt pleasure;

we don’t know if it felt pain.

We don’t know a spider’s feelings,

or if it even has a brain.

All we can state, for certain, is this:

the spider lived, every day, in showers of piss.

Perhaps, for the spider, this constituted bliss.

 

Every time he needed to take a leak,

the philosopher observed the spider,

over a period of weeks. Should he intervene?

The consequences could be huge,

if he extracted the spider from its daily deluge.

How would it react? He had no idea.

He hesitated, torn between compassion and fear.

 

He did what philosophers do: he thought.

He pondered distinctions between “could” and “ought”.

Having probed the matter, in all its dimensions,

he acted, upon the best of intentions.

 

Two days later, the philosopher hung his head,

when he finally saw where his intervention had led:

the desiccated husk of the spider – dead.

I’ve had a keen interest in philosophy ever since coming across Colin Wilson’s “Beyond the Outsider” in my local public library at the age of sixteen.  It introduced me to Wilson’s “New Existentialism”, awakened my interest in philosophy and the history of ideas, and my life was suddenly transformed.

Unfortunately, philosophy and poetry have turned out to be not the easiest of bed-fellows, whenever I’ve tried to combine the two of them.  When I read about the philosopher Thomas Nagel and his encounter with a spider, however, I thought it might lend itself to poetry, and the above poem is the result.

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