Bright Pebbles

To myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
--Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton's mind encompassed the universe, but he never ventured very far from his familiar haunts in Woolsthorpe, Cambridge and London.  And notwithstanding his famous remark about being like a boy playing on the seashore, he never actually set foot on a beach or saw the ocean.  I grew up in the Midwest and was similarly deprived.  My family had once vacationed in Florida, but I was too small to remember much.  It was not until I had small boys of my own that I really had a chance to play by the seashore.  We spent a week each summer at Cape Cod when they were growing up.  I would help the boys fill their plastic buckets with the brightly colored pebbles that gleamed in the shallows.  It was always disappointing to see these treasures after we had taken them home and they had dried out.  Once removed from their natural element, they were soon leeched of all life and color.

So it is with the truths we try to extract from life.  We expect them to retain their luster in every light and are disappointed.  Even the truths propounded by the incomparable Newton are found wanting when viewed in a different light.  The laws of motion remain, but time and space are not as he thought.  There are no absolutes, it would seem -- or at least none that can be fixed in our thoughts and claimed as immutable truth.  There are only those bright pebbles gleaming in the shallows.  We pick them up, hold them to the light for a brief time and then cast them back into the great ocean of truth. 

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