Once a snowflake was told it was unique. This wasn’t just the opinion of one or two other flakes around it. They might have been expected to say something of the sort, if only to confirm their own sense of themselves as being unique too, much as clueless yes-men will cover their personal shortcomings by lauding the brilliance of an equally clueless superior or those who’ve proved to be pinched-in-spirit will see unparalleled faith to praise in someone very like themselves. No, this snowflake was told it was truly one of a kind and special, not just by those near to it but by the author of every flake-development book it ever read and by the host of every self-discovery broadcast, video, or DVD it ever watched. To say nothing of countless flake-awareness seminars and workshops it signed up for. “Think of yourself as the one and only snowflake in the whole wide world” ran the constant message of these sessions. “You’re an original. Special through and through and without end. That marks you off as something unequaled in a world where every day, in every way, conformity hems us in more and more.” Such encouragement should have heartened the snowflake, but that hadn’t been the case. Instead, what others spoke of so glibly as the very essence of everything that made it one of a kind seemed swept away in the face of cold reality. The trouble was, the end to its uniqueness turned out to be as close as the neighboring snowflake and that flake’s equal and incessant claims to being an original. As if declaring yourself to be different was the only way to show you counted for something. Such claims to the left and to the right, above and below, before and behind the snowflake had the effect of lessening its own claim, didn’t they? For if all were equally one of a kind, what meaning did being one of a kind have? Worse, once any snowflake hit the ground, it quickly found itself disappearing under a host of other originals floating down, covering it up, pressing upon it, distorting its shape, turning the matchless features on which it had based its sense of self into a thickening blanket of uniformity. And yet, was the snowflake wrong to think it was unique? There really were no others exactly like it, nor had there ever been. The birth of a snowflake must be a celebration of individuality beyond the assertions of all those flake-potential experts confidently informing it of what that “individuality” entailed. Something the claustrophobic crush of sameness all around couldn’t obscure. Then why did the snowflake’s feeling that the opposite was true continue to deepen?
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans