Finding the Ocean in a Seashell

I used to like picking up seashells on the beach if they were big enough to put to my ear because I thought it was fascinating to be able to hear the ocean. Sometimes, I wondered, “how can the ocean sound be inside the shell?” “Where did it come from?” Over time, I realized that it was more like an echo, the sound of the empty space in the shell muffling outside sound and amplifying the air inside. The roar was partially created by my own ears, the blood rushing through, in addition to the sound reverberating in the cavern, created by the shell held to the side of my head.

Now, I do not necessarily know if this is true or not, but as I logically think through how it might work, to “hear” the ocean in a shell, this explanation seems plenty plausible to me.

Everyone knows that I could jump online, Google an answer, read something that could – hopefully – be reliable (you have to check your sources, that’s journalism 101, kids) and, if I were unsatisfied with the answer, search again for something more detailed and accurate. But with all the world accessible, for better or for worse, in my pocket, encapsulated in “1s” and “0s” inside my phone, sometimes it’s better not to look. They’re starting to say that this is better for your brain, anyway, to remember things, or to – gasp! – think about the answer to a question or to a problem, without relying on the modern conveniences that are all so often inconvenient.

What this new generation may never learn is that sometimes, you don’t have the answers. If your parents teach you well, this lesson is passed down; sometimes they don’t have the answers, either, and while that can seem scary if you’re a kid, by the time you realize that is the case, you have developed the ability to stand on your own two feet. Or, at least, that’s exactly how it should be. At the same time,  as you learn they don’t have the answers, they also learn that by not teaching you every little thing, they have learned to let you go and think for yourself. Such is the greatest symbiotic gift of being a parent.

So, rather than Google everything, and have so-called experts tell me how to think, or feel, or act, or what to do, I’d rather go down to the beach and imagine. I prefer to speculate, just how exactly there are icicles on the sand, or if the rocks are frozen together, or when the water might freeze (does it ever really freeze completely?) And on the off-chance that a storm has passed, and larger shells have washed ashore, I might just pick one up, close my eyes and hold it to my ear, without wondering how or why it is possible that I can hear the waves hit the sand and the ocean roar no matter where on the planet I am.

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