Why a star thrower or starfish you ask? Well, I’ll tell you why.
This is what is on my mind every time I look out one of my windows, because ALL of my windows see the Lenana “soccer field”… an empty, multi-use field. There are rumors that the man who owns my apartment block also owns at least part of the field through tribal rights and plans to build another compound, or phase of this compound, which will do two things: First, it will completely block my view of Lenana. Second, it will severely if not totally eliminate the “soccer field.”
And in the midst of all this, I am thinking about beaches and ocean and starfish. Go figure.
Actually, I ran across the story of Eiseley’s Star Thrower, as many of you probably have, during my post-graduate work in counseling psych. It is on my mind lately a great deal, not surprisingly as I look out my balcony or bedroom window or kitchen window… and see the children of the Lenana “soccer field” decked out in their grey and blue uniforms.
Lack of resources here (though I understand my friend Lydia saved my boxes of therapy books containing the information) requires me to rely a bit on Wikipedia information for the backdrop to the story of the Star Thrower and the starfish:
“The Star Thrower” (or “starfish story”) is part of a 16-page essay of the same name by Loren Eiseley (1907–1977), published in 1969 in The Unexpected Universe.
The story describes the narrator walking along the beach early one morning in the pre-dawn twilight, when he sees a man picking up a starfish off the sand and throwing it into the sea. The narrator is observant and subtle, but skeptical. He has the last word, a pessimistic conclusion. Some excerpts:
In a pool of sand and silt a starfish had thrust its arms up stiffly and was holding its body away from the stifling mud.
“It’s still alive,” I ventured.
“Yes,” he said, and with a quick yet gentle movement he picked up the star and spun it over my head and far out into the sea. It sunk in a burst of spume, and the waters roared once more.
…”There are not many who come this far,” I said, groping in a sudden embarrassment for words. “Do you collect?”
“Only like this,” he said softly, gesturing amidst the wreckage of the shore. “And only for the living.” He stooped again, oblivious of my curiosity, and skipped another star neatly across the water. “The stars,” he said, “throw well. One can help them.”
…”I do not collect,” I said uncomfortably, the wind beating at my garments. “Neither the living nor the dead. I gave it up a long time ago. Death is the only successful collector.” ~The Star Thrower, p. 172
Later, after some beautiful thoughts on our relationships to other animals and to the universe, the narrator says:
…”On a point of land, I found the star thrower…I spoke once briefly. “I understand,” I said. “Call me another thrower.” Only then I allowed myself to think, He is not alone any longer. After us, there will be others…We were part of the rainbow…Perhaps far outward on the rim of space a genuine star was similarly seized and flung…For a moment, we cast on an infinite beach together beside an unknown hurler of suns… We had lost our way, I thought, but we had kept, some of us, the memory of the perfect circle of compassion from life to death and back to life again – the completion of the rainbow of existence” (The Star Thrower, p.181).
So goes the Wiki article. Humanitarian groups amended and tweaked the story to pull at our heartstrings, not to serve but to give money so they who are on the ground and in the field could afford to serve:
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. – adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley, Star Fish Charity 2003
The Web has information indicating that a well-funded and perhaps British school exists nearby and was renamed the Lenana Secondary School from something with “York” in the name. I see a large, older European designed building in the midst of the “slum” shacks. I am beginning to hate that “slum” word and phrase because there is richness beyond expression behind those metal corrugated panels serving as walls and roofs. And as I look at maps, I see north of us the huge “leafy” sprawling compound of the European school, shadowing the slum below it.
We shall see what comes of this, for both us and for our linked friends.