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Rated: E · Essay · Philosophy · #2191639
Things are often not what they seem. It matters not. We still have to do what is right.
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At times, profound wisdom comes in the form of a child’s thought. If you have never heard this story, take a moment to experience a wondrous piece of innocence. And where have you been? But even if you have heard this before, come, take a walk with me along the beach, where we will encounter a fundamental life lesson that we all can enjoy that should touch your heart, and fill your soul with hope for the future. And your mind, don't forget your mind. A myriad of questions, with a single one being: why doesn't everyone feel this way?

I have seen a number of versions over the years. The characters vary, and yet the story remains a classic.



Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up. As he came closer he noticed that the figure was that of a young man and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. As the boy walked, he paused every so often, occasionally reaching down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. As he approached the boy, the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" said the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves”. The youth continued, “When the sun gets high, they will die unless I throw them back into the water.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? There must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

At this, he bent down once again, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it as far as he could into the sea. As it met the water, he turned, smiled and said, “It sure made a difference to that one!”


The story is inspirational on so many levels and creates a teaching moment about so many issues. The incredulous wise man who sees the futility of the quest. The endearing simplicity of an innocent child, naive and resolute, and yet unwavering in his belief that his actions are right and necessary. And we can make the case that they are both right, and yet wrong as well. One lesson to take away from the narrative is that even with the slight rebuke as to his somewhat unrealistic intentions, he takes the moment to decide that saving one, among the carnage and death along the beach, is superior to inaction and resignation to the reality that more will die than live today. And yet he continues along the path he has chosen, saving hundreds out of thousands, not because he has been instructed to by others, but because he has decided, in that alone place we call our mind, that it is simply the right thing to do. And it is. For him. Today, the boy is, in fact, a man. Making his own decisions, and directing his own actions. Irrespective of the criticism of others, no matter how well-meaning or heartfelt.

Who in fact is the person of wisdom in this illuminating parable? Do we accept reality as it is handed to us, or do we disregard reality, and attempt to craft a new and improved one, without the limitations and defects of the one we now possess? In contrast to the other animals that inhabit this wondrous planet, only man can envision the concept of creating a new reality, and a new environment, for a better and more secure future, for himself and those that he cares about. Only man can refuse to accept the world as it is, and strive to change it. We need the wise man of character to explain what we have done in the past, and the youthful individuals who can show us the dreams of the future.

We all need to live our lives and follow our paths as if we are walking along that beach. Every decision is a new opportunity to change the world around us, improve relations with other individuals with whom we interact, and specifically to aid in our own development, in the never-ending search to discover how to improve self and enjoy our sojourn through life. They do not need to be momentous changes, but only steps, albeit baby steps, in the right direction. They say that every journey begins with but a single step, and yet every step begins the adventure anew. We are all capable in being a part of the solution to the many problems that we have in the world today. A person of character and integrity will never be the source of the turmoil we face daily in our struggle to find peace. They can only be an asset and a means to a beneficial end for all of us. The need has never been greater than today for us all to seek out and embrace Philosophy and the answers it can supply. Your mind has the questions. Your heart has the love and compassion. Your soul has the peace and confidence to show you the way. Philosophy has the answers if you take the time to look. We are all capable of changing the world.

You CAN make a difference.

You can make a difference TODAY!

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