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So the big football player from a small town goes off to college and is overwhelmed by the sheer number of people there. He's depressed because he's no longer the "Big Shot on Campus". People look at him and say, "Well, that's what happens when the big fish in a small pond becomes a big fish in a big pond." But I question the idea that life in a small pond is somehow better.

I'm what you would call an expert on the subject. I grew up in a small pond with about 20,000 fish and went to college in another small pond with a school of about 1,200 fish. I'm not what you would call a big fish, but I am a different fish. The thing with small ponds is that they tend to have only one species of fish, and if you happen to be a striped bass in a pond full of yellow bass, you're got some problems:

1. Fish don't like different fish. You won't make many friends, and the other fish will spread nasty rumors about you and make funny fish faces at you.

2. It really cuts down on your chances of finding a mate.

3. The other fish won't listen to you. You can tell them that that tasty-looking worm is attached to a hook from here to eternity, but they won't heed you. Actually, this is more of a problem for the other fish.

4. The other fish will scrutinize your every move, and if you fall for that glowing-thing-on-the-canivorous-fish's-head trick even once, you'll hear about it for the rest of your life.

Of course, we anti-socialites like to brag all day long about how we don't need the approval of the other fish; we're not supposed to be that shallow (pun intended). But there's a funny thing about some animals: we need to fit into a group. Nobody really likes to be alone. This goes for fish, monkeys, chickens, humans, and even cats (ever try to keep a single indoor cat? Don't do it. Trust me.)

Yes, it's petty. We're supposed to revel in diversity, it's the American dream. But it's tough to be different. It's not so much of a problem when you live in a big pond, but small ponds are notorious for encouraging conformity.

Side note: this is part of what makes the Internet so great. If you're in a small pond full of fish who're a differnt species, you can easily find a stream through the Intenet to fish of your own kind.

I've taken the fish analogy a bit too far, so I guess I should relate a moral or something now. Here it is: Don't be too harsh on people who give up a little bit of their individuality to live a more comfortable life. Sure, it's a terrible thing to happen, but it's not easy being different. Your opinions are made an issue every day of your life when you happen to disagree with those around you, and it gets exhausting after a while.

Reflections of fireflies dot the pond.
A smooth gray rock drops in and disturbs the surface.
The waves bend and scramble the water
and the fireflies' images dance and jump from place to place.

I sink into cold and prickling grass,
enjoying the ribbons of sun-heat dragging themselves West
as the day ends. I'm approaching a stillness.
My waves are giving up; my ghosts have tired of leaping about.

For the masque.

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