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Article ID: 6282
Age Group: Adult
Posted: April 20th. 2003
Series 01 - One Worm at a Time...
I think that sooner or later we all come to the same conclusion: Worms have a death wish. Stroll down any street, avenue or walkway after a soaking rain and you'll undoubtedly find numerous strands of the recently deceased lying at the bottom of the newly ponded puddles. What great tragedy so drives the earthworm to such despair that its only recourse is to fling itself into the watery abyss? Has it been heckled by one robin too many? Perhaps our friend, Eddie , is on to something. Being called 'Slimy' or 'Yucky' by complete strangers does seem a bit over the top even in these politically divisive times. And I certainly can see where that sort of thing could really get to a worm after a while. Especially on a dreary and drizzly afternoon.
But it doesn't always rain and so what is a suicidal worm to do then? Because a convenient puddle is not always within wriggling distance, worms have apparently figured out other ways to off themselves. Worms with a religious bent often opt for self-immolation. Leaving the green, green grass of home forever, they stretch out one final time upon the fiery funeral couch so often referenced in that classic tome of earthworm esoteric literature: The Sidewalk in The Sun.
And so it was the other day that I witnessed what can only be described as a cult intervention. I was on my way to the outdoor trash bin with my bag of indoor trash. As my trash bag and I were heading out, I encountered a fellow apartment dweller on his way in. Now this is not the folksiest of apartment complexes. We don't exactly invite each other over for green tea. We don't even know each other's names. We generally refer to each other as the 'couple in '698' or the 'little blond kid's mother' and stuff like that. We, of course, are 'the Witches in Building Seven'. And so, this particular incoming tenet will merely be known as the 'Cell Phone Guy'.
CPG (Cell Phone Guy) was just minding his own business (I assume) and talking on his cell phone. He was looking down as he walked and talked and I moved a little to the side in case he didn't see me coming towards him all hell-bent on getting my indoor trash disposed off. He didn't see me at first but as it turned out, we were never in any danger of colliding. He suddenly stopped short and spun around.
Now I am pretty good at getting my indoor trash over to the outdoor receptacle before it can be smelled at a distance, so I figured it wasn't anything that I -- or my trash -- had done. So what was up with that guy anyway? The mystery only deepened as I spotted him now bent over something in the walkway.
Well, maybe he had dropped something, I thought as I tried to negotiate my way around his now protruding backside without causing an embarrassing incident with the trash bag. It's a pretty narrow walkway. I sized up the situation, computed the butt to trash bag ratio and decided that I wasn't going to make it. Just as I was considering stepping off the safety of the walkway and into that grassy area known as the 'Red Ant Ankle Attack Zone', CPG straightened up and flung something onto the lawn.
Catching his eye, I smiled and queried, "Worm rescue?"
"Yep!" He smiled back and then disappeared around the corner still talking into his cell phone.
I went back to hauling my trash across the lot.
The worm went back to wondering if this was really that good of a day to die after all.
(Well, I can't be positive, of course, that is what the worm was thinking. I do hope that it has found a new lease on life. But for all that I know it could have been gobbled up by one of those vagrant blue jays that is always lurking around our building.)
Now, I am not exactly a Zen Master or a Taoist. I don't know if I completely buy into the scenario of each small action being capable of changing everything in the entire universe. Quite frankly, the Gods would have to be nuts to give we humans that kind of power. But I do believe that some seemingly small actions have a ripple effect that initiates some other changes in the cosmos.
I do so wish that we had some sort of official instruction manual on this -- and as much as my Capricorn nature laments this glaring oversight -- I can concede that the concept of human free will combined with a certain amount of universally allowable randomness makes that nigh on impossible. But I digress...
You see, I've been feeling a bit discouraged of late. Even as the pathetically tenacious optimist that it seems I am fated to be, the recent world events have beaten me down. It's not just the war (or the wars, if one wants to look around the globe beyond Iraq) itself that weighs heavily upon my spirit; it is the vitriolic rhetoric and the name-calling and overall heightened level of aggression and hostility that one seems to encounter everywhere these days. From the capitols of the world to the media outlets through to the conversations taking place across the dinner tables, office desks and Internet message boards, the balance has shifted. Gentleness and empathy have given way to harshness and hardness of heart. I -- and the many empathic people like me -- have been in some considerable pain.
But that changed for me on a sizzling walkway yesterday afternoon. A young man -- just going about his business (I assume), talking on his cell phone and completely unaware that he was being watched -- took notice of a slimy, yucky and lowly worm (Sorry, Eddie!) suffering under the blazing Florida sun and was moved to perform a simple act of compassion.
I do not know Cell Phone Guy. I am not on intimate terms with the worm either. And I doubt that CPG and Worm had ever met before yesterday morning. So on the surface, there was no obvious pay-off. No one to applaud an act of intervention. No press coverage. No kudos. No curtain calls. Something welled up within the man when he gazed down at the struggling worm. And that 'something' moved his heart to act.
I don't know what happened to the worm. Maybe a wayward jay ate it or maybe it crawled right back out there onto the sizzling sidewalk and met its Maker as a dried-up squiggle burnt into the cement. Maybe it is now snoozing happily away in its little earthern bed.
But whatever moved the man who moved the worm also moved me.
Perhaps the Universe wanted Cell phone Guy's act of kindness to be recognized and my trash bag and I were just in the right place at the right time. Maybe this was a first for CPG and the Gods wanted to encourage him to continue to be so observant.
Or maybe the set-up was for me. Perhaps the Old Ones heard my heart's cry and wanted me to know that humanity has some good left within it still and that some individual human beings can and will perform random acts of kindness just because they cannot bear to do otherwise.
Or was it to remind us all that no act of compassion goes unnoticed or without its reward? And that even should we think that one small thing isn't really that big of a deal in the larger scheme of things that there are Forces and Gods and Spirits who do see and do care. Very much.
And we can't overlook the possibility that it all came together for the sake of the worm. A lowly and yucky worm that may not have been suicidal after all and was dying in pain. And in whatever form its cries rang out, Life heard and answered Itself.
By whatever circumstances and for whatever reasons, the worm, the Cell Phone Guy and I came together for one brief moment on a sizzling walkway under the Florida sun. Maybe it was just coincidence. Maybe the ripples will never reach beyond the writing of this story. Maybe it was nothing at all. Or maybe...just maybe...what some sages say is really true...
Love, kindness and compassion can transform the world.
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, April 21st., 2003
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