A story is told of a young person in a small, poor village who wants to buy his teacher a gift. Being poor he has nothing he can give her. The ocean, the most magnificent force of nature in his life, is just 20 miles away. So beginning early one morning he walks all the way to the beach, takes up a handful of sand, walks all the way back to his village and places the sand on his teacher’s desk. “The journey”, he tells her, “Is part of the gift”. This parable has always struck me as an especially poignant means of conveying that the heart and effort that goes into an act is more important than the act itself.
But everything can be turned on its head. It’s struck me that art traditionalists take the same tack in considering digital and photo art. Anything touching a computer is found to be inadequate; only brushes and paint are judged a legitimate long walk to the beach.
However, turns out there’s more to the story than what was once told to me. The teacher is actually quite popular. There are others in the village who, equally poor, recognize the symbolism that a little beach sand infers. Another young person, who is quite social and vivacious, convinces a slightly older person who’d studied under this teacher to lend him a bicycle. He makes the same journey to the sea and comes back with the same size handful of sand, albeit he makes the journey faster and with less effort. Another young person hires himself out working nights in a small business until he has earned just enough money to afford a bus ticket. His journey involves less physical effort, but he must endure the mental anguish of traveling the crowded and somewhat dangerous bus route. He too comes back with an equal sized handful of sand. Finally, a fourth young person remembers her friend from the youth congress she attended, who happens to live in the city by the ocean. She writes her friend a letter, and the friend then mails back to her, in a small container, a handful of sand.
So there the teacher sits on her birthday with four piles of sand on her desk, each of them obtained through compelling journeys, each of them reverberating with the sounds and scents of the vast ocean, each of them brimming with heart. Were she to consider one more beautiful than the next she would not have become a great teacher.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.