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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Wisdom of Pearls

Pearls remain one of the most valued objects today with the smallest costing from a few hundred dollars to ones costing up to thousands. There may be many reasons people are priced so high. After all, they are produced by a natural process, by a mollusc, a living being, and, yes, they evoke a certain beauty and perfection.

It was at a seafood restaurant that I wondered about pearls. In theory, molluscs such as mussels may produce one. But pearls are often associated with oysters. But, if oysters and other such organisms, are capable of producing a pearl, why don’t we find one every time we get on? On doing some research, I discovered that the pearl, in fact, is the product of an oyster’s attempt to gain relief from discomfort.

Indeed, since molluscs are confined to their shells, there is no way to remove a splinter such as a speck of sand. So, using a substance called “nacre”, it gains relief from its discomfort. Incidentally, “nacre” is the same substance it uses to create its shell. Thus, one can say that a pearl, is in fact, created because the oyster wants to get some kind of peace and rest.

That is why not all oysters which grow in nature have pearls. In a way, oysters who are forced to form a pearl are unwell. Yet, we value the most those pearls which, out of their attempt to gain freedom from pain, create one of the most beautiful object, we - as human beings - find of value. Yet, for the oyster itself, a pearl is somewhat not unlike a scar that cannot be removed but lies there as a constant reminder of an unhappier past.

What does this have to do with us? Well, in today’s society we tend to look at pain of every form as the great evil awhile we view pleasure as the most desirable. But, we forget that while pain and discomfort may not always be necessary, at times we must go through a certain degree of pain and discomfort to grow. And while, during hard times, we may be tempted to escape from an unpleasant reality, the fact that the more we resist our discomfort, the more it will hurt us.

Here, perhaps we can learn from the oyster. While the oyster cannot get rid of a splinter, it uses its own body to make it part of her. However, it does not stop there but keeps the painful intrusion at a safe distance. In this way, while the oyster and the pearl remain connected to each other in one way, the fact is that the oyster is also able to gain relief and carry on with life.Thus, it accepts the pearl into her home but, at the same time, is detached from it.

How many times in our life have we made mistakes>? How many times were we in pain or in an uncomfortable situation? How many times have we felt ashamed of ourselves? I can say that there were quite a few in my life. Yet, can I change them if they happened years ago? Can I change them if their cause remains beyond my control?

The thing is that many times, we cannot change our pasts. So, like oysters, we need to accept that discomfort. However, with the benefit of hindsight and experience or our “nacre”, we can turn our pain into something that is of value and precious, the way we live our life, or our “pearl”. Even if, unlike oysters, we all have to face splinters of pain or discomfort, we all have the potential to change something that is negative into a positive future.

But, first, perhaps we must stop fighting reality if we know we can do nothing about it. And, yes, we cannot avoid to go through a degree of further pain and discomfort to start to heal.

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