There’s a planet in the Milky Way where all the people dig all day, and that’s where I grew up.
My town was a gigantic mine, and everyone I ever met was a digger. Every adult I knew just dug all day, and every kid I met in school was learning how to dig. Actually, the only subject taught in school was digging. In short, my town was one big hole in the ground where everybody dug. And even at night when people slept they dreamt of digging.
They called the town a diamond mine, and everybody dug for diamonds. I asked a lot about the diamonds to my parents and my teachers. But it wasn’t long before I realized that no one had ever seen a diamond before. Everyone knew stories about diamonds, but no one could tell me firsthand what they were. This bothered me. I asked my parents and my teachers why everyone kept digging if they didn’t even know what they were digging for. But no one could give me an answer.
After that I became a very reluctant digger. Sometimes I stopped digging altogether and just watched the others dig. But most of the time I dug halfheartedly, and everyone scolded me for it. By turns I was confused and angry, sad and resentful, then finally sapped of life, just wishing I could go on digging like the rest of them. But I couldn’t. So I threw my shovel at my teachers and kicked dirt in strangers’ faces.
Then one day, everyone in town, my family included—everyone!—looked up from the hole, turned to me and shouted: “Nick! You’re weak! You’re a drag on this town and nothing but trouble! You can’t dig here anymore! Get out of this mine!” I was stunned. In shock, I climbed out of the hole and walked away.
I walked alone for seven years. I cursed the mine and cursed myself. I walked and walked until, in the middle of a desert, I came upon an abandoned shovel. I screamed and picked it up and started digging like a madman. I dug and dug and dug. I dug more furiously than anyone I ever knew back at the mine. I stopped sleeping. I stopped eating. I dug throughout the night and day.
After two years I stopped cursing the mine. After four years I stopped cursing myself. After six years I stopped thinking altogether and fell into a trance.
I was in a trance for three days. My fingers gripped the shovel on their own. My arms dipped and scooped the shovel on their own. My lungs breathed on their own. My heart beat on its own. My skin perspired on its own. The hole dug itself.
After three days my fingers loosed, my arms fell by my side, my breath ceased, the shovel dropped and I stood in perfect stillness in the hole.
Then I saw: I am a diamond!
Blissfully, I left my hole.
My body walked itself. It walked and walked until I came upon my old town. I had walked around the world.
I walked up to the edge and looked into the hole. The town had tripled in depth, and everywhere were diamonds digging! I watched them with amazement. I watched them with a smile. One by one they noticed me. I started crying. What could I say? What could they fathom? They looked weary. They looked clouded. I looked upon myself and noticed how I glistened in the sun.
I walked into their hole. Sunrays shimmered through me as I descended through their town. The places that were dark became illumined. Some people stopped and noticed, while others kept on digging.
At the bottom of the hole, with no shovel in his hand, a shadow boy observed his whole town digging. I knelt before him, and he looked at me in perfect stillness. I put my hand upon his forehead and thumbed away the dirt. Light filled him, and he glowed.
“Sweet little boy, you are a diamond!”
Nick Astraeus received his M.A. in theology from Union Theological Seminary. He is a freelance writer. You can reach him for queries at Nick.Astraeus@gmail.com.