Once a snowflake was told there had never been a snowflake like it. Ever. This wasn’t just the opinion of one or two flakes around it. They might have been expected to say something of the sort, if only to confirm their own sense of themselves as being unique too, much as clueless yes-men will cover their personal shortcomings by lauding the brilliance of an equally clueless superior or the pinched-in-spirit will see unparalleled faith to praise in someone very like themselves. No, this snowflake was told it was unique, truly one of a kind and special, not just by those near to it but by the author of every flake development book it ever read and by the host of every self-discovery broadcast, video, or DVD it ever watched. To say nothing of countless flake-awareness seminars and workshops it signed up for. “Think of yourself as the one and only snowflake in the whole wide world” ran the constant message of these sessions. “You are an original. Unique through and through and without end. That marks you off as something unequaled in a world where every day, in every way, conformity hems us in more and more.” Such encouragement should have heartened the snowflake, but that didn’t happen. Instead, what others spoke of so glibly as the very essence of everything that made it one of a kind seemed swept away in the face of cold reality. The trouble was, the limit to its uniqueness turned out to be as close as the neighboring snowflake and that flake’s equal and incessant claims of being an original. As if declaring yourself to be different was the only way to show you counted for something. These claims to the left and to the right, above and below, before and behind the snowflake had the effect of lessening its own, didn’t they? For if all were equally one of a kind, what significance did being one of a kind have? Worse, once any snowflake hit the ground, it quickly found itself disappearing under a host of other originals floating down, covering it up, pressing upon it, distorting its shape, turning the matchless features on which it had been urged to base its sense of self into a thickening blanket of uniformity. And yet, was the snowflake wrong to think itself unique? There really were no others anywhere, nor had there ever been others, exactly like it. The birth of a snowflake must be a celebration of individuality beyond the imagination of all those flake-potential experts confidently informing it of what individuality entailed or meant. Something the claustrophobic crush of sameness all around couldn’t obscure. Then why did the snowflake’s feeling that the opposite was true continue to deepen?
Copyright © 2005, revised 2008, by Geoffrey Grosshans