One day, Rol had a question for Master DaTerrin. They walked over to a merchant’s shop in the village and Rol directed his uncle’s attention to one outside wall, up near the roof.
“I saw this the other day,” said Rol, pointing to a spider’s web, “and it made me pause and think—If I was the owner of the shop and I decided to clean around the outside of the building, would it be acceptable to knock down the spider’s web? That decision would be made knowing that the spider put much effort into building that web, and if I destroyed it, the spider would be forced to build another web or find another way to capture food. Or possibly he would perish from my somewhat selfish cleaning effort.”
DaTerrin scratched his chin thoughtfully and replied, “Of course, you must realize that I will answer that question with a question to you, young one—What do you think?”
“I thought you would say that,” said Rol. “In fact I knew you would. So, based on that, now my new question is—What is the difference in our relationship now that my journey is over, compared to when I was a full-time student, before my journey? Still Teacher and Student, or now just Uncle and Nephew? You are putting the question back on me as you used to do. I’m not complaining, mind you, I’m just wondering if this is another lesson tactic of yours.”
“First I must correct you to say that your “journey” is not over,” said DaTerrin. “Your experience traveling from my house to your family was but one part of your journey. It is not over. I believe it is, in fact, far from over.”
“Now, to answer another of your questions, before I even address the spider—One difference in our relationship is that previously you would have had thoughts, such as those you just had about our relationship, without necessarily telling me. Now you say them out loud instead of keeping them to yourself. You are communicating more effectively and are not afraid of letting others know what you are thinking. That’s good. You are learning and growing, and believe it or not, I am learning from you. You are the teacher at times now. In this case you assumed the role of student when you asked me the spider question as though I was still your teacher. Our relationship is now determined mainly by you. Some areas in our relationship that will not change are that you will always be my nephew, you will remain taller than me, and I will always be older than you. But I may not always be wiser than you. And some day you may actually match my skills with a Battlestick—although not anytime soon.” DaTerrin was now smiling broadly.
“Back to your question about the spider,” continued DaTerrin, “Since you are growing so much wiser with each experience, I truly would like to know what you think about the situation, and I will stop talking now so that you can get a word in.”
Rol tried to absorb DaTerrin’s words. They swirled around in his head for a while as he thought about his student-teacher relationship with his uncle, as well as his role in the village. Rol knew that others counted on him, and they would look to him more and more every day for advice. He would need to think quickly but speak wisely, and at times those two ideas seemed to be at odds. Rol looked into his uncle’s eyes and saw someone who was not only intelligent, but also caring and humble, and the younger decided that he would need to maintain a balance of all three.
“I don’t know what I would do about the spider,” Rol admitted, humble being the trait that loomed larger than the other two at the moment. “That’s the truth. I just don’t know. I guess I need more training, more words of wisdom.”
DaTerrin chuckled. “Before you doubt your abilities, let me offer this suggestion. Spend some time thinking about this situation from a human perspective, not just concerning yourself as much with how it would affect the spider. God gave us the intellect to think beyond what a spider can possibly imagine, and the lesser creatures of this world are for our benefit. That doesn’t mean we can be cruel or heartless or careless, but it does mean that we must look at things in the right order. From the shop owner’s perspective, is it important to remove the web? Is the spider harming anyone, or does it have the potential to? Is it scaring away customers who need what the shop offers? Spiders are actually quite resilient, so you may be inconveniencing it, but the loss of a web is likely not devastating. Still, are you unfairly taking advantage of a lesser creature just because you are more powerful? It’s also interesting to consider that…”
DaTerrin stopped mid-sentence. “Look at me going on and on about a spider’s web, in the role of teacher. It’s hard to break old habits, and I apologize. I’ve provided some of my thoughts—since you asked me—but it is time now for you to ponder a bit more. I know you will arrive at the answer you think is best—in this small example as well as in the larger ones you will surely face. I have the utmost confidence in your abilities, young one.”