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I’m a sucker for the starfish story. Yes, its corny and overdone, but so am I. Okay.

A writer likes to walk on the beach each morning before he begins his writing. One morning, he sees a figure dancing in the distance. Liking the idea that someone would dance to the day, the writer approaches. He realizes that the figure is that of a young girl, and she is actually reaching down, picking up starfish from the still-wet sand, and throwing them into the ocean.

As he draws near the girl, he asks her what she is doing.

“I’m throwing starfish into the ocean,” she replies.

“Well, I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

The girl looks at the man with a sincere expression and says, “The tide is going out and the Sun is coming up. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

The man considers this and says, “But surely you realize there are miles and miles of beach and thousands of starfish along each mile. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

Without pause, the girl reaches down, picks up a starfish, and throws it into the ocean. As it hits the water, she says, “I made a difference for that one.”

I can’t teach everyone in the world the wonder and magic of science. Most people just pass me by. And that’s fine. I like Joseph Campbell’s idea. He didn’t believe in learning something just because it’s supposed to be important. For most people, science will always be what warms their morning coffee, and wonder will be what goofy name the celebrity of the month gave her latest baby.

So my choices are to give up, to stand back and watch as the Sun dries out the starfish and they turn to dust and blow away. Or I could try to make a difference – for that one starfish. But really there’s no choice. Carl Sagan said “Not to teach science seems to me perverse. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.”

Whether anyone can hear you or not.

My first book, called The Turtle and the Universe, was published by Prometheus Books in July 2008. You can read about it by clicking on the link above.
My second book, Atoms and Eve, is available as an e-book at Barnes and Noble. Click the link above. You can download the free nook e-reader by clicking the link below.
August 2008
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A blog by Stephen Whitt

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