Monday, May 07, 2007

On Being Pluto

I'm not sure why, but I was thinking about Pluto today. Last year it was demoted from a full-fledged planet to a "dwarf planet", which I imagine was a crushing blow to its mother.

What occurred to me was, Pluto doesn't particularly care what we call it. It's still Pluto, a hunk of frozen whatnot orbiting the Sun. Whether we call it a planet or a dwarf or a Flooboozle is irrelevant to its actual nature; it is what it is. Calling it names doesn't really change anything.

I think in our zeal to classify everything and our obsession with putting the universe into neat, understood little categories, we forget that:

The world is what it is.

Maybe it was seeing the Monarch butterfly chrysalis that prompted this thought. No matter what brief slice of time we happen to catch the Monarch in, whether it's a caterpillar or a pupae or a full-fledged butterfly, it is what it is right at that moment. Is the little creature inside that shell a crawler or a flier? Or is it somewhere in between? We're not good as a species at things that defy neat classification. Gray is seldom "in".

Or maybe it was thinking about some recent comments here about atheists. Whether you call a man immoral or moral, good or bad, kind or cruel, he is what he is. Nothing anyone says is going to alter the reality of his objective truth as a being. If he's good, he's good, and calling him bad won't change that.

Applying labels to everything makes us feel better, but I think we're just kidding ourselves. Sometimes words get in the way, making us see the idea of a thing rather than the thing itself.

And all the while I was writing this, Pluto kept spinning its way around the Sun. From unknown mathematical anomaly to faint smudge of light, from asteroid to moon, from planet to dwarf, while we rewrite our textbooks it keeps traveling on its journey, oblivious to the exhortations of the poets and philosophers.

May we all do the same, leaving behind in our wake the curses and labels of those who try to pin us down, content to simply be what we are.

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