Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Diamonds & Dust

Once upon a time there dwelt a speck of dust alongside a busy road. This road was one of the largest and oft-traveled thoroughfares in the entire kingdom. Fat, wealthy merchants, grand princes, and pious bishops journeyed alongside poor peasants, tired farmers, and the unlucky victims of ill-fortune. The merchants and royalty, and even the majority of the holy men made no attempt to hide their disdain of the other travelers who oftentimes would beg for mercy (and maybe a coin or two) from the better-off. More often than not they received sharp words and maybe the occasional imprint of a boot for their pains.

One of these miserable street urchins was noticed by the dust speck every day as he sat alongside the road, his small hands outstretched as he begged for food or coins. He was just a small boy, never knowing what it was like to be loved and appreciated. He got more kicks than crumbs, and the dust speck watched every day as he bore this torment he didn’t deserve. He was not resigned to his fate, but always clung to the idea that something better was just around the corner, even as he slipped lower and lower into poverty and mistreatment.

On one fateful day, the little boy stopped a mighty ruler as he rode by on his horse, whereupon he pleaded with such fervency that the old man was instantly pricked in his heart, and he took the boy into his care.

Years passed, and still the dust speck remained at the side of the road. Every day, all he saw was the hooves, feet, and wheels of the busy travelers, and every day he witnessed the beggars as they cried for alms.

One afternoon, as the speck watched the contemptuous elite saunter by the hopeless beggars, he saw one of the passing lords stop his horse and dismount. Walking over to a little orphan boy, he took out a small embroidered pouch made of red silk, and whispered, “I know what you’re going through. Just as these diamonds came from dull black rock, so too can you rise above the poverty around you and become a mighty man.” He placed the bag into the child’s quivering hand, who opened it, spilling the ground with hundreds of tiny diamonds as tears streamed down his dirty face. One of the smaller diamonds fell unnoticed at the ground next to the dust speck, who recognized the lord for who he was.

Indeed, the mighty lord was the little urchin boy the dust speck had sat next to all those years ago. He had traveled with his savior out of poverty and into greatness. He had changed his fortunes and the sight of the hungry little beggar boy moved him into remembrance of the hardships he had faced as a youth.

The dust speck had, up to this point, been content with its insignificant existence. But when he saw the change that had come over the former street-rat, it was motivated to change its fortunes as well. The idea of something so wretched becoming so lauded appealed to the dust speck.

“I shall become like a diamond, like those he gave the little boy,” said the dust speck as he eyed the diamond at his side, “and all the world shall see me in my radiant splendor and adore me and worship me and place me in the middle of a grand crown.” Thus was the dust speck’s heart set: to achieve glory and wealth and recognition and change its fortune from uninspiring to undeniable.

The dust speck forgot all except for its ambition to become as glorious as a diamond. It no longer cared for any of the beggars lining the road, and it turned up its nose at the pious priests, the fat merchants, and the unfeeling nobles. Ever did it watch the diamond sparkle and shine with magnificence in the sun. And ever did its disappointment grow as it found it wasn’t turning into anything comparable to a diamond.

Then one day a thought struck it: The diamond’s glory was entirely given by the sun! If the dust speck could only somehow get the sun to make itself sparkle and shine in such a way, then its goal would be achieved, and then all the glory would be his.
When it was suitably windy and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky that could possibly disrupt its radiance, the dust speck threw itself into the air. The current carried it over the middle of the road and high above.

And for a moment the wind blew and lifted up the speck of dust, and to all who saw it, it sparkled like a diamond in the glorious rays of the sun. Then, finally, the wind abated, and the dust returned to the earth as mere dust.

The dust speck’s glory changed to anguish as it realized all that its greed had caused. Now lying in the middle of the road, the dust speck was trod upon by every foot that walked, every hoof that trotted, and every wheel that rolled down the long road.