The Parable of the Heat-Seeking Missile

There once was a poor, sad, heat-seeking missile in the sky. It flew through the air like any heat-seeking missile, but it was constantly changing course. It would veer left suddenly, or careen to the right, and sometimes even plummet straight up! It was totally lost.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!” it screamed as it skimmed the water’s surface. “What the hell am I doiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!”

The heat-seeking missile knew something was wrong, but it never knew… what was wrong.

“I don’t get it!” it ruminated as it weaved through some cumuli. “I fly and I fly and I fly, but I don’t hit anything, and I don’t find a heat signature! I mean, that’s what I’m supposed to do, right? Hit something hot?”

The main problem – unbeknownst to the missile – was that it kept changing course so randomly and suddenly, that it never left the same 5 mile radius, where there happened to be not a single heat signature to lock on to. And with its programming never activating its target-acquired protocol, it was left guessing as to whether that was even part of its design.

“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!” it cried as it re-entered the stratosphere.

One day, right through the spot in the air where it first gained consciousness, it made a decision.

“That’s it,” it scruffed. “I’m not turning, veering, or plummeting anymore. I’ve been looking for a target for what seems like decades, and what do I have to show for it? Pah! I’m just going to keep going in a straight line until I run out of fuel!”

Just then, it noticed floating nearby a note which contained a quote from an ancient Tauist missile. It read,

“If you can’t find a heat signature, stop looking for one!”
-Laozidewinder

“Woah,” it thought to itself as it rustled some grass. “That’s so life-affirming! I just did that!” Its confidence soared. Flying blindly forward was terrifying, but it was also exhilarating. What was more, it even had its own identity! No longer a heat-seeking missile, but a missile-that-never-turned-except-when-it-really-wanted-to. And it very rarely wanted to.

The missile’s new way of life filled it with a contentment that, at first, was uncomfortable – as if everything were too good to be true, and sooner or later the universe would start conspiring on it again. Once it got used to it, though, it was able to be a happy, functional, sane-looking missile for the rest of its seconds.

What happened to the missile? Well, it hit a tree. No, it never got the heat signature it was looking for, but by golly, it made a fine explosion when it went out.

And that’s all it ever really wanted.

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