THE PACK RAT
Once a pack rat resolved to make a little list. It did so after finding itself troubled, while lovingly surveying the treas-ures it had gathered over years of collecting, by the sud¬den thought a day might come when all of this, all the pack rat had grown to cherish, all this wonderful hoard, would vanish as if it had never existed. That could hap-pen. The glories of Greece and Rome had dis¬appeared into the Dark Ages, hadn’t they? Who could deny it might happen again? Something must be done in the face of such a potential catastrophe. If the best that the pack rat’s world had produced was in danger, it fell to those like itself, those most qualified to select what was in fact the best, to step forward. It fell to them, in short, to make a list of what was worth pre-serving for all time before it was too late. What should go on the list, then? What should the world never for¬get? The pack rat contemplated its heaped trove and began to choose the ten best. But no sooner had it made its first selections than the pack rat found itself faced with something of a dilemma. Was the list to be the ten best of its own life¬time, it asked itself? Or should it be the ten best of the past cen-tury? What about the past mil¬lennium? Or all of recorded history? And was ten enough? Should it instead be the one hundred best, or even the one thousand? Where should the pack rat begin, and once begun, how could it be cer¬tain where to end? And obviously there must be a clear hierarchy of some sort to the list. Adopting just any order of one through one thousand wouldn’t do when it came to the best of the best. Worse yet, what if the New Dark Ages the pack rat feared began before it had finished its task? A premature catastrophe was not out of the ques-tion, after all. Or suppose the list, by some twist of fate, never saw the light of day? Then again, suppose it did see the light of day, but not in its com-plete and ordered form? These were not trivial concerns. Clearly, the pack rat would need to have all of its wits about it for such an exacting and solemn task as the one before it. The stakes were so high and the potential conse¬quences of a momentary lapse in critical acumen were so grave that it couldn’t afford to make a single false step in judgment along the way. Ultimately, “Best” lists told you who you were and why, the pack rat was convinced. “This list must be my life,” it exhorted itself to re-member. Then, after a moment, it added, “Or should I say, ‘my life must be this list’?” Yet another difficult choice to be made!
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans