Pearls of Wisdom

Pearls of Wisdom examines the process of marine oysters creating pearls and compares it to the human experience of learning from life’s hardships and finding the beauty within.


After taking some time to check in with my mental health, I wanted to start up my posts again by talking about a video that came across my Facebook dashboard. Following her 18th birthday, a young woman begins opening a gift from her boyfriend, who films dutifully behind the camera. For nearly 5 minutes, we watch as she pulls out bag after vacuum-sealed bag of individually wrapped marine oysters. She seemed to think it was a joke until her boyfriend, stepping into frame, informs her that they will open them all in search of pearls. Nearly 10 minutes later, she holds two handfuls of oblong, multi-colored pearls and grins happily at the camera.

At first, I couldn’t believe it: how could something so precious be found in a pack of oysters one would order online? So I did a little digging and found out, to my slight disappointment, that the pearls they had found would not pull a high price on the market. Their shape, more oblong than spherical, was less than ideal. Their luster, which reflected brightly in some places, came up flat in others. But the woman didn’t seem to care. Her teeth shone brightly, white as pearls, as she thanked her boyfriend while gagging at the smell of the oysters littered around the kitchen. The moment wasn’t perfect but it imperfectly was.

That’s a Big One: The girl from the video found a pearl roughly the size of a ping-pong ball

A slave to my quizzical nature, I decided to do some research to understand the full process of making a pearl. I learned that pearl formation is actually a defense mechanism; as irritants find their way into the shell, the oyster begins to secrete aragonite and conchilolin. These materials, which make up the oysters shell, combine to form nacre, or “mother-of-pearl”, which encases the irritant to protect the host. As years go by, layer upon layer of nacre are added, forming the pearls we have all come to value.

While I was reading up, I found the process of pearl making relates a lot to life. Like oysters, who add to their shells by filtering calcium from the water, the strength and thickness of our own “shells” is determined by our environments as well. Should one be too exposed to the trials and tribulations of life, the nature response is to build our walls thicker and taller, determined to keep others out. The true beauty of that person sits beneath those walls unseen, waiting for the day when someone might come along to help them open up. But even if they don’t want to and no one ever comes along to help them, that layer of beauty remains with them, as smooth and real as the the shells of the oysters that lived and died on the ocean floor.

Oyster Inspiration: Artist Kristine Kainer immortalizes shells through paint

So as we experience hardship and other “irritants” that force their way into our lives, we learn more about ourselves. With each revelation and every hopeful breath, a coat of understanding covers us, adding another layer to our protection from the pangs of life. Throughout years of living and learning, these layers add up to create small pearls of wisdom. When we find ourselves at our darkest moments, where we no longer see that beautiful layer of love and value that lives within us, we can look to these small life lessons and find hope. They embolden our actions, growing larger as we begin to affect a positive change in the world. Much like oysters, the beauty built from hardship oftentimes cannot be fully appreciated during our lifetime. It is our memory, built through avenues of experience and actions based in love, that lives on as a shining legacy after our earthly bodies have faded to nothing.

In short, it often takes a lifetime to make any sort of positive difference and even then, most don’t live to see it. But the differences we have made live on in the memories of the hearts we have reached even after we lay forgotten in our graves. It is our actions now that determine the fate of the world to come, where something even so small as an indirect kindness could mean someone else finding the hope to continue living in a world they feel has forgotten them. Do not let the hardships that invade your life disable you from living it: each experience of pain and loss only add to the beauty and strength of those that are forced to endure them. Never forget that layer of beauty that lives within you and remember to help other’s find it when you believe they’ve lost their way. In a world full of “irritants”, choose to find beauty.

2 thoughts on “Pearls of Wisdom

  1. It strikes me that we can all choose how we react to those irritants. Hopefully, we’ll let them help us find the beauty and the goodness in life. We can also build up walls that keep people out, and prevent us from engaging in a meaningful way. Let’s choose the beauty!

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