One of the things I love about getting to speak at conferences is visiting different places by myself. I spend a lot of time around other people, and need some solo time to regroup and reconnect with my own thoughts.
Today, I was lucky to spend a glorious day in Cancun at a lovely resort, but quickly left it and walked down the busy beach to a rocky outcrop into the ocean where very few people were walking. It was igneous rock, pummeled by centuries of turf and waves crashing down on it, carving little canyons into the surface closest to the water.
The rock had formed little grooves and nooks and pools, many of which had small fish swimming around, crabs crawling, some sea flora growing. There were pelicans and iguanas sunning themselves nearby.
And some of these grooves and little pools had grown together, and had become interconnected into a single little ecosystem in which little whitish fish with zebra stripes running across their bodies swam together. And this little pool received seawater from the waves that crashed and sprayed against the rocks. Some of them were quite big, expanding down crevices worn into the rock, into an elaborate network of water and life.
And inevitably these little interconnected pools did end. Sometimes they ended against a rise of rock taller than the waves could get past. On the other side of these rocks lay another similar ecosystem of grooves and canyons and crevices and pools of fish and seaweed and beautiful little cupped plants that grew in tight groups.
Maybe it’s because I recently rewatched the amazing remake of Cosmos, or because I saw Interstellar over the holidays, or because I have a curious 10 year old, but I thought about how interconnected we all are, and yet how disconnected we are as well.
You could spend your entire life in one of those pools, thinking you understood how the world works, never knowing that just beyond your world is a similar world that you’ll never learn about. Whether we’re talking about a tidal pool, a remote community, a likeminded group of people insulated from diversity of thought, or zooming way out and thinking about our polluted environment on our little planet, our solar system or the network of galaxies in the observable universe.
You can scale way up at a universal level or way, way down to the scale of a tidal pool and this truth remains: We only know what we know, and if we give up on endless curiousity and the humility that we don’t really know much of how the universe works, we are turning our back on our potential.