On Dreams Of The World, or Snail Secrets

I used to imagine, when I was a kid (it’s always when we were kids, isn’t it really sad, how we lost this ability to be a child as we grow up?), what it would feel like to be a snail and carry its house on its back. I collected these little animals, and in the end I knew that I was being rather cruel to them — I had lots of mayonnaise glass jars, which I washed after the food was gone, to keep the animals in question inside of them. At first I only liked to see them crawl all over the glass, on the sides of it, on the lids; I liked to see the traces of that white goo they left behind, and I liked to fantasize about what was happening inside their shells. I had no intention of seeing them die, but inevitably, because I didn’t feed them, they died, one by one. It’s just that I had never seen them eat, and I had no idea how this survival process for molluscs was. Until one day I came upon an encyclopedia of animals that brought a great entrance on snails, and finally I learned how to “raise” them appropriately. So my collection of glass jars with snails became bigger and more viable for their dwelling. Eventually, I gave up my career in heliciculture, but not before devoting much of my seemingly endless childhood free time to these animals.

I created stories for these snails and their shells, stories in which I deposited a supposed truth, and no book on biology was able, for a long time, to teach me otherwise. I believed in the idea that when the little creatures cowered inside their houses, they magically shrank, and inside they found a whole world, an universe unique in itself, unlike anything I lived on a daily basis. So it was like they carried not only their homes on their backs, but simply the whole world. A world exclusively for them, but a whole world. My imagination blended with what I knew of science fiction, precarious technology figures inhabited this ‘world of snails’ for me, things that came out of early Gorillaz’s music vídeos (a childhood obsession of mine too). I used to talk to the snails, I asked them to tell me everything about the world, about the unknown lands, the seas and oceans never seen, if there really was a sunset on the other side of the planet while we have a sunrise over here. I wanted to know about my world by asking them about a world (theirs) that did not exist. We have to escape somehow, remember? We always have to escape, those are the disadvantages of living forever in a prison.

Sometimes I felt as if I also carried the world, my world, on my back, and this is something very awful for a child to feel. I believe that to this day all of us, ordinary citizens, feel this, because without wanting, without asking and without understanding why, we carry our little worlds on our shoulders, the worlds in which our families and their problems, our dreams and their obstacles, our beliefs and struggles inhabit. And disorder, then, settles in our beings because we didn’t want the burden to carry the world in this way, and even when we want it, we don’t imagine it to be so heavy and so difficult to be discarded once we get up, fix it in a way that doesn’t hurt our spine so much and start to walk slowly, without direction because there are too many people in a world, who talk too much and think too much, so we never know which way to go — the world, honestly, doesn’t let us know.

Like snails, we leave our own mucus behind on the roads we pass by. As one of these modern curiosities of science, it has recently been discovered that the slime of these mollusks can aid in the healing of human wounds and in the depollution of water. But for snails the main function of this is to assist them in their locomotion. They are not worried whether what they produce while walking will have some use for humans, their predators. However, it is different for us. We worry day by day what utility will have the traces of what we build as we follow the paths of life for those we’ll leave behind when we’re gone. We’re always extremely concerned about the legacy we’ll raise from the ashes, a legacy both material and emotional, which will be perpetuated by those of our blood, directly linked to the follow-up to be given to our personal buildings. I ask you (I ask myself): what if we were only concerned with our way of walking? With how are we choosing the paths to follow? And what if we were more worried about the glass walls we have to climb to reach the exit from the imprisonment, than the remnants we leave behind as we go, one step at a time?

I don’t know if snails carry worlds on their backs, I don’t even know if you, who reads this little essay, know the feeling of the world that weighs on our shoulders. As you can see, I also have no clue if the ideal is to conserve what we build or focus much more on the construction itself.

All I know is that I miss my vivid childhood imagination.