There was a time when the smallest possible particle was dust, from which we were raised and to which we would return. Dust that could be kneaded and moulded to make man, briefly, but in the end worms and disintegration would win. Dust to dust.
Then we learned of the atom, but the order of the world was not disturbed, for what was an atom but a smaller, harder, more perfect grain? A finer mill, a more persistent miller, patient and relentless, but we knew it was just grist. We understood what it was to be atomistic. Alone, unaffected, hard surfaces that could collide, but never crack.
How then should we measure the cracking of the atom on the scale of human suffering? The point at which the freedom of armour was replaced by the imprisoning fear that it could be breached. The terror of collision that could bind two atoms together in such an explosive incident that something new would be created, another atom, more dense, solid, permanent, and yet discarding energy like sweat from a bailaora.
And more devastating still: the knowledge they could be ripped apart with the fury of Armageddon. What God has united let no man tear asunder, and yet we could. If all that would be left behind was devastation, a horror of wind and winter as a new dust, thick and toxic choked the life out of the earth, what did it matter? We had the power to bring about the end of all things.
The days of dust, of marbles that bounce off one another and roll away unmarked, are gone. We have learned of binding and breaking; it cannot be unlearned. Deadly decisions as simple as a coin flip, but no one has taught us how to choose, or if we have to make a choice at all