I was out driving in the pre-dawn darkness, daydreaming and listening to music, when I made a wrong turn out of habit. I put it in reverse, backed into the nearest driveway, and started to move forward, when I caught sight of a tiny toad in my headlights, hop-hop-hopping for all he was worth to get out of the middle of the road. I’d somehow managed to back right over him and miss him with all four wheels.

As I waited for him to get to the grass, I thought about how easily I could have crushed him and never even known it. And even though it may seem sentimental to stop and wait for a toad to move to safety (where he’s probably just as likely to get tortured by a cat or devoured by something else), and even though I didn’t mind doing it, I admit I wouldn’t have been upset at all if I had run him over and realized it after the fact.
We humans love to imagine ourselves as masters of our own destiny, but we never stop to think about how often we’re completely helpless to do anything about the immense wheels of history, economics, politics and nature as they roll heedlessly through our individual lives, oblivious to the destruction they leave behind.