A hope note
Loren Eiseley overcame a lot on his way to becoming one of the leading environmentalist writers of last century.
His mother was deaf and mentally unstable. When his father died, Loren dropped out of high school.
‘I was loved,’ he later wrote of his years at home, ‘but I was also a changeling, an autumn child surrounded by falling leaves.’
Later he enrolled in college, only to have to drop out when diagnosed with tuberculosis. A child of the Depression, he became a hobo, hopping freight trains and traveling the country.
Adversity plus riding the rails plus the doctorate he eventually earned molded him into a stellar anthropologist and writer. One story from his last writing, ‘The Star Thrower,’ is my favorite.
Loren Eiseley is walking along a sandy beach littered with starfish that have been washed up on the shore. He sees a boy picking them up one by one and throwing them back. When he asks the boy what he is doing, the boy tells him that if he didn’t they would surely die. But why save a few, Eiseley asked, when so many are doomed. What difference do you think you’re making? As the boy threw another one back he replied, ‘It’s going to make a lot of difference to this one.’
Eiseley returned home that day to continue writing his book, but found that he couldn’t write one word. He returned to the beach and spent the rest of the day helping that boy. Eiseley said, ‘Call me another thrower.’
The enormity of need out there overwhelms us. We think, ‘What’s the use? How much change can one person make? What difference does anything make anyhow?’
If you’re a stranded starfish, it makes all the difference in the world.