Spiders of some sort–I lack the academic credentials to identify them– had recently taken up residence in the stairwell of my old apartment building. I sweep the dirt from this area, since I sometimes track it in from the construction sites where I work.

But the spiders, I decided, could stay. They looked harmless enough. I’ve never been particularly afraid of them, and I find the things they predate on far more annoying in general. In the following weeks I noticed the spiders appearing, occasionally, in my apartment proper. I never disturbed them.

Once, an old girlfriend of mine spoke of the jumping spiders in her rented home in Amakusa in Japan. Naturally being afraid of them, she eventually happened upon a method to kill them with ease: a vacuum cleaner. I thought she was quite clever, at the time. Later she spoke of a new infestation, a round of much more horrible bugs, which the jumping spiders had evidently been keeping in check. Not so clever after all.

At the time I thought nothing of it, but now I realize that I came to understand that spiders are our friends more than they are our enemies. Very seldom, upon hearing this story, have I killed any of them. If I can, I always spare the life of a spider. I’ll even live alongside them if they aren’t obviously dangerous.

I think of this as something of a metaphor for tradition. Tradition is like a spider–unappreciated, perhaps even disgusting, until you kill it and see for yourself every nasty thing it has kept at bay.