THE PACK RAT
Once a pack rat resolved to make a little list. It did so after finding itself troubled, while lovingly surveying the treasures it had gathered over years of collecting, by the sudden thought a day might come when all of this, all the pack rat had grown to cherish, all this wonderful hoard, would vanish as if it had never existed. That could happen. The glories of Greece and Rome had disappeared into the Dark Ages, hadn’t they? Who could deny it might happen again? Tomorrow even. Something must be done in the face of such a catastrophe. If the best that the pack rat’s world had produced was in danger, it fell to those like itself, those most qualified to select what was in fact the best, to step forward. It fell to them, in short, to make a list of what was worth preserving for all time, before it was too late. What should go on the list, then? What should the world never forget? The pack rat contemplated its heaped trove and began to choose the ten best. But no sooner had it made its first selections than the pack rat found itself in something of a dilemma. Was the list to be the ten best of its own lifetime, it asked itself? Or should it be the ten best of the past century? What about the past millennium? Or all of recorded history? And was ten enough? Should it instead be the one hundred best, or even the one thousand? Where should the pack rat begin, and once begun, how could it be certain where to end? And surely there must be a clear hierarchy of some sort to the list. Adopting just any order of one through one thousand wouldn’t do when it came to the best of the best. Worse, what if the New Dark Ages the pack rat feared began before it had finished its task? A premature catastrophe was not out of the question, after all. Or suppose the list, by some twist of fate, never saw the light of day? Then again, suppose it did see the light of day, but not in its complete and ordered form? These were not trivial worries. Hanging in the balance was nothing less than the definition of life as the pack rat knew it. Clearly, it would need to have all of its wits about it for such an exacting and solemn task. The stakes were so high, the potential consequences of a momentary lapse in critical acumen were so grave, that it couldn’t afford to make a single false step in judgment along the way. Ultimately, lists told you who you were and why, the pack rat was convinced. “This list must be my life,” it exhorted itself. Then, after a moment, it added, “Or should I say, ‘my life must be this list’?” Yet another difficult choice to be made!
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans