I admit that I probably am too much of a romantic, given my rough-and-tumble background. But, walking along the beach near my cottage yesterday, I couldn’t help noticing, not the endless wave-driven layers of pebbles blanketing the sand, but the variety of pebbles in the collage. Millions of pebbles. No, more like hundreds of millions.
Our lake is unique. Lake Winnipeg has been gouged out of the landscape by Ice Age Lake Agassiz. It left a sizeable depression in the prairie, making it the third-largest Canadian freshwater lake, and the eleventh largest in the world. But Lake Winnipeg is found right along the dividing line between the limestone rubble and bedrock of Manitoba/Saskatchewan and the pre-Cambrian shield granite of Ontario. Accordingly, on the sandy beaches of this lake, we find an eclectic mix of pure quartz, feldspar, mica, slate, shale, granite and limestone (fossils included). Each rock type has a different density than the other, and different flaws, strengths, cracks or fissures.
I picked up stone after stone for nearly an hour, examining these rock fragments that had been buffeted by the same water, the same ice and the same wind and rain as every other pebble on the shore. Not one was the same as the next. Nor did I expect them to be the same. Yet, I could not help marvel at two things: 1) How supposedly the same items, in the same environment could be so uniquely different and 2) How we generally look along these lakeshores and see sand, or rock or water, as a conglomerate, but fail to appreciate the differences in each granule, and the beauty in the individualism.
As hard as rocks may be, they are eventually shaped into something special and different. Yet, as fragile as we humans are, we expect that everyone will think like us, agree with us, and conform to our standards and beliefs, regardless of their backgrounds, the buffeting they took through life and their particular toughness or weakness. We expect others to be us, but resent it when they usurp our special place in the world.
Anyone in a medium-sized family can attest to the truth that no two children – even those born as identical twins – end up precisely the same. That is because there are nuances in the way that they experience life, the way they are treated and the information that they absorb.
Don’t believe it? Step into your living room, and take a picture. Now go to the other side of that room and take another one. Upload them to your computer, and examine them. Do you see precisely the same thing in the same way in each picture, or is everything viewed from a different perspective?
The problem with each of us is that, no matter how close we may be to another, each hears and sees the world from that specific vantage point. An identical twin talking to her mother in the kitchen may not be heard by her sister in the next room, or the mother’s response may be missing a key inflection of the voice, or the nuanced hand gesture that went with a comment. So now that twin has a unique experience that impacts uniquely on that person. It is the proverbial Chinese cliché regarding the beating of a butterfly’s wings. Everything thereafter has been altered, regardless of how miniscule the change may be.
In our own lives, realization of that impact of minor adjustments to experience is critical to finding our oasis in life. We all need to seek out, not our neighbour’s dream, but our own. We are special. We are unique. We have ideals and aspirations that we may not have fully understood, yet. But to attempt to mirror the supposed successes of your friends is only to invite discouragement, when you discover that it is not as fulfilling for you as it seems to be for someone else.
Your co-worker has a Lexus. So you must need one, too, to be happy. Your doctor vacations in St Kitts. So you must go there, too, to be a success. You read about this life of excitement living in the Far East, so off you go, only to find that you are lonely and disheartened, because your family and friends are more critical to your enjoyment than you realized.
You are nothing more than a pebble on a remote beach. I, too, am nothing more. But, for me, that is more than enough, because I have learned that, being a pebble, I am unique, individual, marvellous and irreplaceable. So are you!