Episode 90 – A New Starfish Story

starfish stranded on the beach

Everyone seems to love the “Starfish Story” by Loren Eiseley. We’ve got a new take on this old classic and promise you’ll never see starfish the same way again.  This is an episode you won’t want to miss; it matters to this one!

Photo courtesy of OrangeCounty_Girl

16 responses to “Episode 90 – A New Starfish Story”

  1. This devastated me. The beloved starfish story, shot to smithereens. Well, shot but then resurrected and improved. What you say totally makes sense. I think I’m with you now. =)

    But I still do like Papyrus.

  2. the starfish story needs a total rewrite – i love y’all’s attempt…

    the imagery of the old story is so beautiful but at the same time reminiscent of old stereotypes and attitudes towards adoption and foster care.

    the little boy in your new story has no support system no “agency” etc. to work through – he should stage a protest, he should petition the gov’t to work amongst the laws it has created, etc. etc.

    i totally agree on the story being OVER used – i have heard it at teacher workshops that if we can reach just one kid our job has made a difference – i always think to that if i work for 30 years and reach only one kid – i sure chose the wrong field!

    thanks for the post —- as always great to hear (missed hearing an update on the girls!)

    ***after years of waiting for the right time… i officially emailed and asked for information for an orientation meeting and MAPP class schedule! we hope to be in a class by January and certified by May!

  3. Marilyn, good points. Every metaphor breaks down somewhere, and it’s early in the story for this one.

    Congratulations on starting the process!

  4. For me the old version applies. How many foster children do get thrown back into the ocean (the foster care system) only to be washed ashore again and again? Why would you want to point that out in a foster parent training though?

    For me your new story isn’t all roses, but I like the attempt. The fisherman using dynamite is more like our society that is increasingly less likely to support families and instead promotes riotous living and selfishness, resulting in the lost ‘starfish’.

  5. Thanks for helping me re-think this story!! It’s something that I’ve been thinking about as we pursue international adoption; are there things that we could be doing in that country to reduce the number of orphans in the first place? Adopting one child seems like too small a dent in the greater problem. And what if we adopted a child that could have remained with their original family if their family had rec’d the help they needed? It kills me to think about it.

  6. Meanwhile, several yards offshore, the currents rocked Starfish 67fx-8c to and fro, until he eventually settled at the ocean’s bottom. Starfish 78yy, a higher caste, approached.

    “67fx-8c! Report!”

    67fx-8c bowed low. “Sir,” he said, “the young man continues to hurl us back into the Great Blue Brine. I estimate he has another 40 to 50 flings left in him before he calls it a day. By month’s end, he should be averaging 200 of us a morning without breaking a sweat.”

    78yy nodded. “And how are his recruitment initiatives proceeding?”

    “It was a fairly dry day, sir. Only one old fisherman, far as I could tell.”

    78yy raised whatever Starfish have instead of eyebrows. “Oh? But the fisherman was converted to the young man’s reasoning, yes?”

    “Difficult to say, sir. I’d already been flung before I could hear the meat of the conversation.”

    “No matter,” said 78yy with a wry smile. “The young man has outperformed all of his predecessors. Scores, sometimes even hundreds of new converts every day hear the story of The Young Man And The Starfish and they quite literally begin pitching in.”

    “It won’t be long until all of humankind will be busying themselves chucking us all back into the ocean, sir!” beamed 67fx-8c.

    “Ha ha ha! Yes, son, it’s what we starfish live to do: exhaust the energy and patience of homo sapiens.”

    The two starfish shared a satisfied silence. Eventually, 67fx-8c’s grin faded and he spoke tentatively to his superior: “Sir?”

    “Yes, son?”

    “Do you think the Day Of Starfish Reckoning will happen in our lifetime?”

    The old warhorse looked heavenward and sighed. “The day when our kind have so fatigued the human race that they’ll be powerless to stop us from rising from the ocean depths to conquer and claim the earth in the name of starfish? Difficult to say, my boy. Difficult to say.”

    “I sure hope so,” said 67fx-8c. “It would make all this insane foolishness… the climbing onto the hot, dry sand… waiting and hoping to be thrown back, only to climb ashore again… it would make it all worth it.”

    “What we do,” said 78yy sharply, “is not for the benefit of any particular starfish, young man. What we do, we do for the starfish kingdom as a whole.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “The greater good!”

    “Of course, sir.”

    “It shouldn’t matter to any particular starfish what he or she gets to see or experience. Do you understand?”

    67fx-8c nodded. And then he whispered to himself, “it matters to this one.”

  7. This is my first post on the blog:) Love your podcast.

    I wonder how you felt about this story when you first heard it (if you can remember). Did you hate it right away? I can see how this story can get annoying when it is overused. But I think this story works well for people who are just starting a new activity that addresses a part of a large issue (I’m thinking about volunteering or teaching etc). I have just signed up for CASA and went to the first couple training sessions. In these classes they give you a broad overview of the kids in the system…and it is overwhelming to say the least. Just after the few sessions we’ve had, it feels like the problem is way too big and complicated that there is no possible way that any one person can make a difference. At this stage in my journey (and I have not been overexposed to the story), the original starfish story fits well.

  8. This will probably be obnoxious, and for that I apologize, but please google the phrase “thousands of starfish” specifically for photos. Hey, it happens.

  9. When I was growing up in NC, we would vacation in New Bern along the shores of the Nuese River. The river was a couple miles wide at that point and could be considered brackish water. During the evening high tide, jellyfish would be pulled into the brackish waters and when the tide receeded, the jellyfish were left on the shores.

    In the morning, we would carefully pile them up so they could deteroiate without stinging anybody walking barefoot on the shore or unknowingly swim in the water. They were dead and if they weren’t, putting them into fresh water would surely kill the salt-water animals.

    Not quite as romantic as the starfish stories, but that’s what I think of when I hear it.

  10. sorry but your comments suck, you need to do some more research before you have such harsh statemets about anyone’s work. You need to read more than one version of any work that has been published long ago and changed over time.
    Just because you have been in few places (maybe 2) and haven’t witness the phenomenon It doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. RESEARCH.

    you also need to consider the context, this poem has been use to inspired other causes other than adoption…..

    you just suck…all over and all around.

  11. Wow…way to massively OVER THINK things and in doing so TOTALLY MISS THE POINT of the story!

    But first – nice that you mentioned Loren Eiseley – but just to set the record straight, this version of the Star Thrower is only very, very loosely based on Loren Eiseley’s essay of the same name – best to say that this version was *inspired* by Eiseley’s essay. This popular version of the story was created by a motivational/inspirational speaker named Joel Barker (and can be found here: http://www.starthrower.com/star_thrower_story_script.htm ) Loren Eiseley, on the other hand, was a naturalist and natural philosopher, and his story, while it does contain the seeds on Barker’s version, was an essay about natural selection, life, death and compassion in a hostile and uncaring universe. It can be found here: http://www.american-buddha.com/unexpec.univ.eiseley.htm

    Now that that’s out of the way…the point of Barker’s version of the story is NOT, as you mistakenly seem to think, that “It’s okay if you only do a little – because at least it matters to someone…or to one person (the person that you help.) The story is NOT an excuse or justification for doing very little…while ignoring the bigger problem! That’s not the point at all!

    And if that’s how it’s being used by some speakers – then THEY have missed the pint too!

    Barker’s point (and Eiseley’s to a smaller extent) was meant as an answer to people who say that there is no point in doing ANYTHING AT ALL – because, ‘Why bother, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things…you can never help *everyone* or solve EVERY PROBLEM! So what’s the point?” The story is meant as a counter-point to people who use ‘Well, you can’t help everyone, so why even bother!’ as an excuse to do NOTHING. (“Well, you can’t end world hunger and feed every single starving kid…so why even give money to charities that feed the hungry or food to those hungry people? What does it matter”)

    The point of the story is that, it *does* matter – even if you *personally* can’t feed every child in the world – you can help some* – or *one* – and i MATTERS VERY MUCH to that one person.

    The story isn’t about how we all, collectively, shouldn’t try to solve the roots of WHY those people are hungry – it’s about how we personally sometimes feel overwhelmed that we alone cant make a difference…so why even bother trying. If we can’t personally, solve all the worlds problems and help every person…kid…or starfish…at least we can help some.

    But also, implied in the story, is the idea that is EVERYONE OF US tried to help one…”starfish”…or person…or child…that collectively, all together, maybe we *could* help ALL of them…

    But the story isn’t at all a justification for doing as little as possible and ignoring the bigger picture. Nor is it a metaphor for “throwing” children “back” or throwing them away.

    And the person..kid…in the story (depending on it’s version) isn’t ignoring the bigger issue…because it’s an issue he CAN’T do anything about…it’s *nature*…suffering and death. It’s not “dynamite” or the fisherman using dynamite that is the cause for the starfish all washing up on the shore…irt’s a natural phenomenon – in Eisely’s original story, this happens the day after a *massive storm* has washed up all these creatures on the shore to die. Eiseley says that indeed, many *are* already dead…so he and the other “thrower” are seeking out the survivors and trying to give them a chance. And even then, he says, most will probably not make it…only those that might catch the tide in the right way. But at least he’s doing something. His other choice is to say “Well, I cant help all of these starfish…and probably even most of the ones I try to help wont make it…so better to just walk away and not even try.” …which, btw, is an attitude that I almost think your podcast hosts were making when they pointed out that most of the fish were already dead…and you couldn’t really throw them far enough so they would probably wash back ashore anyway…

    Really, you should re-read both stories before you presume to be able to “improve” upon them! Not that your story is a bad one either…and it makes a very good point too. But its a different story about an entirely different situation…and it really doesn’t relate to situation in the original versions of the story.

  12. 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

  13. I love your re-writing of this story (itself horribly rewritten from the original). I found this whilst researching a book on the psychology of climate change and looking at the way that this mawkish starfish story has taken off…and you are SO right-this is about system changes, not small personal steps however worthwhile…

    There- bet you didn’t think you’d end up in a book about climate change!

  14. I liked everything I listened to up until this point. I know you don’t care but this episode is trash. Stop the fisherman? How can you stop the fisherman when the fisherman is child abuse and neglect from 1,000’s of parents. You deleted a bunch of your podcasts I see but this one should have been the first you chose to delete.

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