Once a glob of mud reflected on its state. To speak of the glob as a lump of clay would have been too much, and to speak of it as mere slime unjust. It made no claim to being more than it was but resented being considered anything less. What you were you were, and that was all there was to it. But when asked, as it had been recently, to work up a thumbnail biography for the latest Who’s Who of the Natural World, the glob wasn’t quite sure where to start. First of all, there was the problem of its origins. It had nothing to hide about them, yet it could hardly pretend to have an illustrious background that set it apart either. The dust forming it had blown here from a thousand points, and the water giving it life had been the life as well of oceans, rivers, and every passing cloud. Nor was listing its chief milestones as mud any easier. There had been storms and sunny days aplenty, but the glob couldn’t exactly claim to have produced them or to have altered their course in any way. In fact, to suggest its existence had differed from that of the mud all about it by virtue of some unique experience or attainment was even going too far. Best have no delusions about one’s leaving a mark that time would not wash away sooner or later. The planet turned and the heavens turned, and the forces spinning both were not of mud’s making or unmaking. Others might find that fact depressing, but the mud didn’t. Rather, it felt reassured at knowing it could not be separated from the rest of the natural world. What happened to all else happened to it as well, for better or worse. Pressed by experience hard enough it might become rock, and harder still, adamantine. After which the reverse must come and even diamonds crumble. So the glob of mud didn’t feel its life had any special significance or any lessons to teach. What it had learned, all had learned equally. The highest mountain and the deepest sea and every plant and creature that ever lived already knew in themselves what it knew. Nothing would be added or lost, even if floods covered it or the sun dried it up and the wind swept it away. The cataloging of distinctions on which a Who’s Who depended was about as vain an exercise as could be attempted, the mud came to decide. As long as you knew yourself, what need was there for an authorized accounting?
Copyright © 2007 by Geoffrey Grosshans