narcissism and the greater good

Earthworms in puddles
Hapless victims of giants
But why were they there?

Almost every day this week it rained. It made for a fairly miserable time getting to class with a laptop, but it did give nice spans of time to ponder the great mysteries of life, like why the hell earthworms crawl across cement? I brought this up in conversation with a friend of mine. "You know, if you're an earthworm, and you were to find something that you couldn't dig through, why on earth (!) would you continue across it? It seems ridiculous!"

He commented, in a sarcasm-about-wisdom-hiding-actual-wisdom tone, that if no earthworms had done it, then they would only be in one spot. They are fighting for the greater good! Or perhaps they are emo earthworms. But the first sounds much more noble.

Christopher Columbus worm

Amelia Earhart worm
On the other hand, stories in Time and Newsweek recently began insisting that humans aren't really tending towards that sort of commitment to the species at large; we're becoming more and more enthralled with ourselves. Well, not humans in general, but the US, at least, is suffering from a "narcissism epidemic." Interesting. I wonder if all that teaching that little kids get about being a beautiful and unique snowflake is best summed up by Chuck Palahniuk: You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.

Well, maybe putting it so bluntly isn't the right thing, either, but I can certainly see where psychologists might get inklings that people, especially my age, might be getting a bit big-headed. I have borne witness to many a student spending hours grooming his or her Facebook profile page to make it attractive to, you know, anyone who might visit. Such effort! And the fact that some employers and graduate schools now use Facebook to help make decisions on candidates sort of encourages that, too. I dunno... I'm not sure that I can subscribe to that. I know that I spend too much time on Facebook after my lenten resolution ended, but I think I'm doing a better job than a lot of people. Anyway, it's time for adventure. I have to put off thinking about this atomic theory paper for as long as possible.

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