I did not watch the Grammys this year — who did? 

But I certainly saw clips from the Satanic ballet, the only part that generated public interest. Don’t ask me who won Best Album or New Artist of the Year. Even if you forced me to watch Korean boy band videos for 48 straight hours, I could not give you an answer. 

A predictable, if small, sector of the general public was offended by the televised bacchanal that would have made Caligula blush, but their outrage had a short shelf life. We have moved on. Popular culture awaits the next shiny object, and the news cycle is currently focused on alarming us all with reports of mysterious balloons and UFOs that seem to have a penchant for flying over sensitive U.S. military installations. 

Those aforementioned events will also pass away quickly, but the most important aspect of the gentrification of darkness will linger, as it has lingered since the beginning of mankind. 

Literature has long been used to issue storm warnings about the dangers that lurk when we dance with the devil. It might be good for people enraptured with a wide variety of Satanic-lite pop cultural practices to read some of it, particularly one children’s story written almost 200 years ago. 

“The Spider and the Fly” is a children’s poem, penned when children were not kept in hermetically sealed bubbles. To our modern eyes and ears, it seems like a horrendous story to tell a child. 

It was written by Mary Howitt, who was no literary slouch in her day. She and her husband combined their talents to write 180 books, ranging from the mundane “Household Words” to the literary “Ballads and Other Poems.” In her day, Mary Howitt was acclaimed and counted Dickens, Tennyson, Wordsworth, and Browning as contemporaries. 

Now, she is mostly forgotten. I did not even know she existed until we received a gift for our 4-year-old grandson that arrived just in time for the Grammys. It is a beautiful, if somewhat darker (if that is possible) rendition of Howitt’s “The Spider and the Fly.” 

It is a poem that pre-existed in my consciousness. I had heard remnants of it in my own childhood, and when I read the title of the book, there was a sense of familiarity.

After reading this book, with illustrations by Tony Dityerlizzi that are nightmare-inducing, I realized I knew more about this poem than I thought. The overriding central theme had long been implanted in my brain through a kind of cultural osmosis from the era that encased my childhood, and through the reinforcement of the same theme from my parents, my Faith, and all the other forces of good that have intersected my life.

“The Spider and the Fly” strikes a chord, regardless of how modern and sophisticated any particular cultural moment believes itself to be. Like the Grammys and the Garden of Eden, the tools the devil uses are the same ones employed by the spider — and they still work.  

You would think humanity would have collectively learned this lesson years ago. But I’ve been playing golf for more than 40 years and I still forget to keep my head down.

The devil never scares anyone into compliance. He knows what the spider knows. If he were to show his fangs, open the doors to the horrors that exist within his elegantly appointed parlor, no serious fly would go near. 

The acceptance, and even joy, demonstrated on the Grammys’ stage was the same premise, just done via the vehicle of a drag act — an act which also has a lineage that goes back a millennium or two or three. The author of “The Spider and the Fly” knew what God knows. We are frail creatures, very much like the curious and foolish fly in her poem, and traipse willingly into harm’s way because of our pride, our lust, or our greed.

The fly discovers her folly only when she finds herself doomed in the reality of what truly lies in wait for her in a parlor with a spider for its interior decorator.

Just as I sometimes seek refuge from current popular culture trends by revisiting films and art created with an ethos more aligned with my core beliefs, I now know, when it comes to my grandson, I would rather look back almost 200 years to the essential message of “The Spider and the Fly” than to most messages that the current culture propagates. 

I pray he too will assimilate these cautionary tales, and they will tweak his conscience later in his own life every time the next shiny thing comes along, or a schemer has a web for him to try on.