347 Monday Musings: The Earthworm and the Gazelle
‘Can you hurry please’ asked the gazelle to the earthworm. The young earthworm could only smile. The earthworm did not know then that even if he was fast in the earthworm sense, he would always be slow in comparison to the grasshopper, who in turn would not know what was being fast like the gazelle. Being fast or slow was such a strange thing. When an earthworm and a gazelle talk about being slow or fast, one would forgive both for not knowing and not understanding each other. The earthworm would have to be a gazelle and the gazelle would have to be an earthworm for that to happen, and since that is unlikely to happen in a hurry, they would have to reconcile to not knowing what is slow and fast to each other. They could be talking at each other even when they were talking to each other.
‘Why can’t you slow down please’ asked the earthworm to the gazelle, this time with a smile. The gazelle also smiled back. She knew that no gazelle has ever known slowing down. Gazelles are known to run, hop and scamper all the time, sometimes in joy and other times to preserve. ‘I will be hunted down if I slow down’ said the gazelle. One could not have argued with her fear. It is a fear that has been passed down through hundreds of years and its now the very nature of the gazelle – to be constantly on the watch out for the predator lurking around the bushes, behind the rocks and along the stream. Being afraid is the best gift the ancestors could bequeath to the gazelle – it shall keep her alive. However, being fast owing to these fears would also make her friendship with the earthworm difficult. The pace would differ forever because the fears would differ forever. The lament of the innate incompatibility between the earthworm and the gazelle is futile. The anguish of lost possibilities does not keep too many awake, particularly when the realization of those possibilities requires the status quo to be challenged.
‘I am beautiful’ said the gazelle to the earthworm. It was obvious that the reactions both evoked in others were quite different – and to make matters worse, both knew that. The earthworm knew it was creepy, slimy and almost disgusting to look at. It skin was wrinkled, its colors were unappealing and its movements were awkward. The gazelle knew it was delicate, stylish and beautiful. She evoked poems and sonnets as she strutted. Beauty and constant adulation can cause vanity and it did. It can make you lose touch with things around you. The beautiful and the capable know it and assume it to be their birthright, for there is no better intoxication than knowing you are better and more beautiful than others. The more the gazelle spent time with the earthworm, the better she felt, for the contrast only accentuated her sense of superiority.
‘Can you be selfless, like I am’ asked the earthworm to the gazelle. The gazelle did not quite understand. The earthworm knew all its life the drudgery of eating away and excreting the soil only made the soil richer. Life grows better where earthworms are aplenty. Even when they are not good to look at, they are useful. In that sense the earthworms are selfless – or at least infinitely more useful to others. Their life meant something to others, even when others were blissfully unaware of the contributions made by the earthworms. It takes a large heart to be disliked, abhorred almost, treated with distaste and continue to do something that will make a difference to others lives. It takes a large heart and the earthworm don’t have one – perhaps that is why they are able to do it. Gazelle is busy in her vanity, consumed by the cause of her own beauty and survival. She did not understand the question the earthworm had posed. She was not supposed to.
‘what should we do together’ finally asked the earthworm. The gazelle replied – ‘Continue being who we are. I will keep strutting, and you keep crawling. I will keep being the beautiful one, you keep being the useful one. We both have a role today and rather important ones. You will be crushed one day and I will be hunted one day. The difference will hardly matter.’