The Worm

I don’t think human beings are meant to live so close together. Living so close, our thoughts haven’t the room to grow; so when we get a bit of art or original thought or intelligent thought, it comes out only half-way decent, half-formed, and half-crazy. Our thoughts are clipped, neutered, and squashed- like worms under elephants’ feet. The march of conformity would be too powerful even for a full developed idea—but at least it would have come to full fruition, and perhaps escape the dusty avalanche of pachyderm power, weasel off, and run to safety in the sea or in the mountains, safe, alone, and alive.

Perhaps it was inevitable that we should be so canned- humans have never really enjoyed thinkers, but, like they were worms, have tolerated them because they allow the plants to grow, and allow the fish to be caught using the common bait. But since we’re all so citified now, we don’t need the dirt- consequently, we can exterminate the slimy little creatures by stomping them under shoe and heel, Eve’s sin bringing about a battle it was not meant to be waged. But since we no longer have dirt, we no longer see the difference between asp and roundworm, but only they are both single bodied, long, and ground-stricken. And so…squish!

Then again, I merely project my own life upon the world-I pretend, like any good politician, that the life in a world I’ve never lived in was or is or would be so much better, and we are all so horrible for letting the world get this way or not making the world that way. I never lived at a time when the worm was elevated to the king-eater or the time-marker; I have only lived here, where the dust of city chokes you so thickly you can’t breathe straight, and where every man and woman is dressed as Hannibal’s troops- strange, foreign, and different from our own near nudity. They even mimic the great Carthaginian and his elephant in their blindness, though Hannibal, it must be noted, could still see out of one eye, at least.

But I like to pretend that there were eras when the truth did set you free, a pre-lapsarian paradise of pure, honest men and good, chaste women, building a life, only, when confronted with the world outside their dirty farms and muddy fields, to reject it for the treasures of cosmopolitanism. Oh, hey Cincinnatus, you old fool, eagerly plowing your fields—don’t you know Julia will spread her disease-encrusted limbs on your back? Augustus, you silly man, why try to force goodness on those that don’t deserve it? Don’t bother banning Ovid, for he is a worm tending to desire elephantine status-let him be the sheep in wolf’s clothing. I doubt there is much anyone can do to stop games of dress-up.

These fantasies—that had I been born a farmer in pure Roman times, or a Puritan’s son in New England’s muddy past, or a rancher’s brother in dusty Wyoming–are perhaps just that. But I wish, in the empty plains of an African hunter’s dream, or on the cold Rockies deep in Canadian night, I could have lived. It may be I was the architect of my own demise—for isn’t through more and better food that we can forget the plowshare, and pick up the pocketbook? But I can always think that history is less a repository for respect and more a storing up of fertilizer—our dead are fodder for our lives. In them, the cities would have grown—and I, the worm, far away from the pitiful glee of humanity, far way from the planting and fishing times, could have lived a happier life, deep underground, digging through truths untold, allowing time and chance to happen to my thoughts all, safe in the knowledge that I would not be planting the seeds of mine own destruction.

A worm is a great rationalizer.

One Response to “The Worm”

  1. uh Says:

    Very beautiful. Our outlook is much the same.

    I’ve settled on buying a stretch of dirt someplace cold and underpopulated, and relying on native foods, with small farm animals.

    I don’t know what it will do for my thoughts, which come fitfully and half-formed anyhow, and I’m not sure that I ought to care given this escape from civilization. The point isn’t to think, it is to escape and be whole.

    Also, I believe it is no idle fantasy or retrograde idealism to imagine how those early peasants lived. We know from literary tradition and archaeology that life in Alba Longa was wattle-and-daub huts, sheep, barley, and vines. Even when Rome had become what it did, the exurban Italian peasantry remained rooted in that mode of life until the twentieth century, even after in Sicily and Calabria.

    I don’t know. I will read you again. You’re a good specimen, which I say because you remind me of myself. I’ve also entertained fantasies of moving out to Wyoming; this Summer I went to Montana to herd sheep, had hoped to visit its southern neighbor …. and it is a wide wondrous region.

    Instead …. opting for New England.

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