THE BUG ON THE WINDSHIELD
Once a bug threw itself at a windshield with gusto. The bug hadn’t been much to look at in its prime, and it didn’t make much of a splat when it hit the glass, but both of these facts had been beside the point in the bug’s mind. For this end would have an éclat all its own when viewed in the larger scheme of things, it was persuaded. In a world where countless bugs suffered countless meaningless deaths every second, this one would stand out for its resolute display of will! Why let mere chance have the final say in life, as had seemed to be the case with the bug’s own ever since it began? An existence ruled by circumstance, at the mercy of luck or accident, why should that be one’s fate? Always finding yourself at the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time but rarely by plan or purpose wasn’t much of a life. Why have wings to fly if they were yours to command only in the most limited sense? The bug had pondered its act of will at length. Simply “to be” wasn’t much of a claim to significance when “not to be” wouldn’t have proved much different. Let others busy themselves in repetitious, pointless, niggling pursuits they believed gave their brief stay here a reason, ever fearful a mishap might befall them that would render it all for naught, telling themselves they were in control when in truth they were tossed this way and that by the slightest shift in the breeze. Such a life was not for this bug, not anymore. When it had first spotted the distant headlights breaking the darkness and advancing towards it, a sudden elation had welled within its thorax. All the time spent at the mercy of outside forces, with any serious attempt at self-determination continually denied, faded into irrelevance. Whatever might be remembered of the bug would rest on the next few minutes and the onrushing light. Even if life signified nothing, death needn’t, the bug was now certain. How you faced that last outrage, that ultimate denial of individual merit and desire, would count in your favor or against you. A cowardly plea to be spared the inevitable would mark you forever, but a defiant stand against the lot you’d been dealt, doomed though it might prove, must surely place you among the immortals! As if you’d been there in the pass at Thermopylae or with Roland high in the Pyrenees! To the bug, the approaching headlights offered perhaps the only opportunity it would ever meet to rise above the ignoble contingency of its life, to make a declaration once and for all against the limits of being. Others might go on as if their self-delusions were reality, but one bug would take it upon itself to defy life’s humiliations and defeats. One bug would escape the futile round and fashion its own heroic destiny tonight! Its own glorious explosion of the will into eternity, into godlike myth! None of these thoughts, to be sure, ran through the mind of the carwash attendant as he listlessly dragged his squeegee over the windshield and flicked the scrapings away.
Copyright © 2007, revised 2008, by Geoffrey Grosshans