Friday, January 8, 2010

The Smooth Seashells

“Constant dripping hollows out a stone.” ~ Lucretius

While I was cooking dinner last night, my daughter brought in the kitchen a small bag of seashells we found at the beach the past summer. She emptied the sack on the table and lined up the shells, largest to smallest. When I looked at the display, I noticed she had three large shells and several smaller ones, but while the little shells were mostly intact and still quite sharp at the edges, the larger shells were smooth and worn out, some of them missing parts.

I asked my daughter her opinion as to why the bigger shells were either broken or smooth at the edges, and her reply was instantaneous – the larger ones were thrown around with more force by the waves. Intrigued by her reply, I asked her why the waves would be harder on the larger shells, and her response to this question was that when something is small the wave takes it away, while “big things” stay where they are and the waves crash against them. That said, something else caught her attention and she left the kitchen. Of course, she also left me with a little food for thought.

Was she correct? Did the big shells get damaged more because they resisted the waves? Maybe, going along with the random and brilliant thinking trail only children can follow, Morgan had hit on something real.

To test her theory, I went into the backyard to the little stream that runs behind our house and looked at the rocks on the bed – the small ones had sharp edges, while the larger ones were smooth and hollow in spots where the water constantly trickles.

The rocks small enough to move with the water during a storm were only scattered around and not damaged, while the larger ones – too heavy to be moved but by a great volume of water – rested in place and could not escape the damage.

When we move with the flow, although we might feel scattered to the four winds and unable to maintain a steady ground, we are likely to come out of the storm unscathed – flexibility allows us to come through in one piece. On the contrary, when we are too stubborn to move, and we stand our ground even when the current pushes against us, we cannot avoid coming out of the storm with at least some visible damage.

Structures and mindsets that don’t allow room for change are doomed to fail, and it will be only a matter of time before even an apparently harmless trickle of opposing energy will carve a hole in their foundations.

I went back inside and carried a couple of those rocks with me to show my daughter, but mostly to remind myself that fluid thinking and wave-riding can be priceless tools we can’t afford to walk into the future without.

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