My new header picture is inspired by Liu Sola‘s short story 最后一只蜘蛛 (The last spider) from 1987, in which a too intelligent spider is chosen to drink the dewdrop of eternal life.
The spider is born in a prison yard, and as it is too clever to build its net on the high walls where it will be swept away and out of the yard by the wind, it is literally trapped by its own intelligence. Scooped up by an old inmate of the prison, it moves into his cell and they form a silent friendship, keeping each other company but unable to communicate with each other.
Being the last by definition involves being the loneliest, and what increases the spider’s loneliness is the inherent conflict between its Araneaen physical nature and its high level of intelligence comparable to that of a human.
There is an obvious parallel between the spider and the old man in the cell, a former cadre who has lost the favour of the party. Both are separated from their natural environment, and from socialising with their own kind, by the heaviness of their thoughts, no longer fitting with the normative reality.
I took the picture in 2009 at Beijing University campus, and I think it is a kind of jumping spider. The picture shows it crawling over my practise sheets for Chinese characters, maybe it was trying to tell me something…