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November 3, 2009 / Hannah

significance in the many

If you were to ask a snowflake what it was like to be a snowflake, I don’t know exactly what it might say, but I would imagine that it would start off by saying something about its beginning. That is generally how these questions are answered; the process of relating experience generally begins with the telling of ones’ foundational knowledge of the world.

And so, a snowflake might relate its earliest memories as being a part of that cold and airy mist. At first there would be light, and maybe below there was a patchwork of shapes. For a while the rigid lines of mountains. After an indefinite, immeasurable period of time the shapes take on details and movement: lines filled with moving dots, tops of buildings and so on. The wind is forceful, cold.

It grows quite dark, the wind dies down and everything is quiet. This is when, the snowflake might tell you, it grew up (or, more appropriately, grew out). In the darkness it feels a slight breeze and begins to imagine it has shaken off a misty shroud, and now is alone. The darkness continues for so long, and the loneliness is peacefully overwhelming.

Then, it wasn’t quite sure when, but it realized that the darkness had begun to glow an orange-y and warm sort of glow. When it became aware of the glow it also became aware of the presence of other snowflakes floating round it. The loneliness eased and the glow increased, and lights danced below it. The quietness here was different from the quiet it had experienced in the cloud and in the dark. It was softer, enveloping instead of isolating.

And then, I think if the snowflake were able to describe the moment it stopped, when it reached the blanket of millions of snowflakes, I think there is a chance it might try to describe to you that moment, but probably not. Snowflakes, I think, are wise enough to know that that moment is indescribable, it is something that may only be experienced. If it were to try, it might use metaphors, as we all do when we so foolishly imagine we are able to capture these sorts of moments.

And so, it might try to tell you about a note of music in a symphony: how the note exists in a large number of notes, so that it is indistinguishable from them, yet to be part of so grand and awesome a thing, to enjoy existence for such a purpose, was to be a snowflake when it falls. Or it might, considering you are human, ask you to reflect upon the times that you have stood at the side of a great mountain and loved it because it was so much bigger than you. Or the way you feel when you read about an ordinary person who happened to get caught doing something good for another human. And you feel that way because, like the note, you just know that

Insignificance has nothing to do with it. It’s just not about that.

I think anyone having a hard time coping with their own significance should really talk with a snowflake. A beautiful thing is not diminished by the existence of a million other beautiful things.

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