I felt like having a snack and something profound occurred. I took a handful of pretzels of uniform size and length and tossed them into a half-sheet of paper towel. At this point the pretzels pretty much fell where ever they fit, a few even threatened to escape. This wasn’t the profound thing I mentioned above. Actually, I am beginning to think that I should not have characterized this entire event as ‘profound.’ By so doing, I have lifted your expectation to a height that I may well fail to approach.
The profound thought struck me when I attempted to pick up my paper towel full of pretzels. I didn’t want to drop any. And so, to ensure that they all remained on my paper towel, I picked up the four edges and proceeded to my seat. When I set the pretzels down on the table, the paper towel folded back flat to reveal that all the pretzels had aligned themselves in an orderly fashion. What had been chaotic and disjointed previously, now lay uniform, facing a common direction. I stared at my pretzels for a long time. They had conformed. I couldn’t decide if they were more beautiful now in their unity or more beautiful before in their wild abandon. I pondered the affect of that sheet of paper towel. Once encased, previously unruly individuals had been pressured into complacency.
For a moment I glimpsed the paper towel as our environment and the hapless pretzels as human beings. What power our environment has over us. It nips at our heels, herding us into place. A steady, subtle, coercion infiltrating our minds and hearts, twisting us to fit in.
But then again, it’s only a handful of pretzels in a paper towel.