Let us hope that every child and every adult has had the delight of watching a spider weave its web. It is one of nature’s great enchantments.
As the spider is made for building silk webs, so we are made for building relations with persons and things. Spiders possess spinnerets, organs specially designed for making silk. Contemporary neuroscience has established that we possess relational brains designed for and dependent upon the creation of meaningful relations with persons and things, persons being of foundational importance. Just as a spider depends upon its web for flourishing, so we persons depend upon our web for flourishing. Human flourishing begins with anchor attachments, particularly attachment to mother. Like the spider casting the initial thread hoping it will land on a surface suitable for attachment, so babies cast a line of desire, receptivity, and responsiveness, hoping to find in mother a place of belonging that is secure, reliable and nurturing. Failure here results in a painful distortion of the entire web. Assuming a relatively secure attachment to mother, babies then cast for other primary relations (father, sister, brother, grandparents) which, when firmly established, anchor still more relations (friend, neighbor, clerk, pets, books, toys, flowers—an infinite variety of good things). A beautiful spiral of joyful relations is created, all connected, all informing one another. Such a spiral is resilient, able to bear the insults and fractures sure to come. Such a spiral produces a solid center, a core identity that both understands itself and lives by the touch of all its relations.
Like the spider, it is innate for persons to build a web, although this web is not naturally a beautiful, resilient and nourishing web. Our brains are so relational that they cannot develop in a healthy manner apart from secure, relational attachment with others who possess knowledge and skills which we lack. Before we learn to read a book or to write our name, we must learn something about what is worth having and not having, doing and not doing. We must learn how and when to be joyful or sad, afraid or angry and how to recover from sadness, fear or anger, how to get back to joy. We must learn what’s not worth our time, what’s worth our attention, and how to sustain that attention. We must learn what we ought to do and how to compel ourselves to do what we ought. We come into life with great powers of heart, but we need teachers to help us mature those powers. In like manner, we come into life with great powers of mind, a hunger and a thirst for the treasures of the knowledge of heaven and earth. Yet, we need a guide to point and say: “Look. What do you see? What do you hear? Isn’t it lovely or interesting or curious or hard or scary?” In other words, we need teachers. Mother needs to be the first, establishing the primary anchor line. Ideally, father will be second, but there must be other teachers who will frame a rich relational life, each providing a part that others cannot. Unlike spiders, children must be educated. Thus, we maintain that “Education is the science of relations.”
The spider makes a web. The web provides the spider security and a means of capturing food, but the web does not make the spider. While it is true that the way we direct our attention shapes our relational webs, it is an often-ignored truth that our relational webs create us far more potently than we create them. As our relations with persons and things grow thin, we grow thin. As our relations with persons and things grow thick, we grow thick.
Let us pause today and every day, to give some time to our continuing education by thickening a relation with some real person and some real thing. Education is the science of relations.
The above is taken from the Ambleside Schools International blog. Please click on the link to read or listen to the complete article/podcast.