The rain had almost stopped, but the asphalt parking lot at the bank was full of puddles. As I looked down to avoid stepping into one of them, I spotted a ten inch long earthworm stretched out lengthwise actively pursuing a course to an unknown destination. The adult linear creature appeared healthy and determined to find a new habitat. Its former one, a saturated patch of barren earth was merely a yard or two in the opposite direction.
The blind earthworm was traveling at full speed seeking a sanctuary of dryer ground. From my three dimensional perspective, it was traveling to its inevitable death, because it was moving along the hypotenuse of a triangle that extended to the farthest corner of the parking lot. Of course, the doomed earthworm had no idea how futile its efforts were.
I stopped, wondering whether I should “give it a break” and “lend it a hand,” but when I stooped down and tried gently to grab the moist, slippery worm, it reacted vigorously and escaped my grasp. Two more times I made a half-hearted effort to pick up the creature without success.
Finally I gave up, straightened up my complaining body to proceed across the parking lot to my car, and cast one last look at the triumphant earthworm. With its egg sack still in place, its slimy extension was crawling along on a slightly altered path that led to a certain unfortunate end in my estimation.
In my car I paused briefly, thinking how similar human life is to that earthworm’s. Each of us is full of expectations assuming that we were headed to a new destination that is much better than the one we are abandoning. Yet without the perspective of a higher dimension (the third for the earthworm, the fourth for us humans), we can ever be certain that what we are choosing to do is something that will benefit us. Only at the end of our lives would we be able to deduce where we went wrong and what errant decisions led us to our final destination.
I’ll never know if that poor little creature was run over by my car when I drove away, succumbed to the sun’s rays that soon dried out the parking lot surface, or survived by changing its course. What I did glean from that brief encounter with that self-confident earthworm was that as sure as we humans are about what we have chosen to do with our lives, we can never be certain that we optimized our potentiality and made the best use of our time and talents.