You and a handful of your closest buddies are standing around looking at a bucket of rocks. Nobody is quite sure how many there are: maybe a hundred, maybe a thousand. Who can tell? Not quite sure why they’re in the bucket, either, or what they’re for. You start talking about where they might have come from, what you could do with them, how they compare to other rocks you’ve seen.
Then you – for this is the kind of person that you are – reach into the bucket and select one particular rock. You hold it up, examine its size and shape and color, toss it casually back and forth between your hands. As your friends look at you bemusedly, you show them your rock and begin to tell them its story. You spin a masterful yarn about the rock’s backstory – as if it were a person – creating an intricate web of anecdotes and characterizations that make your rock come alive. By the time you have finished presenting your rock’s flinty biography, your friends are smiling and asking questions and – significantly – reaching into the bucket to retrieve their own rocks.
One by one, each friend presents his rock for the group’s consideration, similarly expounding the rock’s anthropomorphized qualities and characteristics – the triumphs and tragedies, the interrelated facts and features and foibles that have combined over time to make it unique and wonderful. Some of the rocks are quite smooth and shiny and beautiful, others have an odd jagged aspect that implies fantastical pivotal past events in the rock’s life story. Some of them, it is surmised, are tens of thousands of years old, shaped by subtle but relentless natural forces. Others are much younger, having arrived in their current state by the machinations and interventions of man. But as you get to know each rock, you are struck simultaneously by the utter individuality of each rock and by their many commonalities. And by how remarkable it is that somehow – through random happenstance or the mysterious manipulations of Fate – all of these particular rocks have ended up in this particular bucket at this particular point in the history of the universe.
After all the stories have been told, someone suggests that you and your friends ought to go grab a beer and some chicken wings. So, with a casual but somewhat wistful gesture, you each take one last glance at your rock and toss it back into the bucket. One wonders: would you recognize your rock again after it’s been tossed unceremoniously back amidst all the others? Was there more to your rock’s story than your casual and cursory examination of it would suggest? Could you identify one of the rocks your friends had presented to you, or be able to relate any of the details they shared with you? And what about all the other rocks? What stories are waiting to be told about them? Will anyone ever tell them? Or are they consigned to a life of relative anonymity and obscurity? – such is the fate of rocks, after all.
Taking leave of your rocks, you depart the scene to quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger and renew your bonds of friendship at the neighborhood tavern. As your voices fade and you disappear around the corner, the rocks remain exactly where you have tossed them… silent and still, but interacting unobtrusively as they always have with the living world around them.
Just a bucket o’ rocks.