Buddy looked up. The sky was full of cotton wool falling and flying around. He barked excitedly and jumped to try to bite one. It tasted cold. It was not wet like the rain he was used to. It moved differently from the Tears of God. It uncharacteristically flew around with the wind. One fell on a flower and Buddy took a closer look. It was not a drop of water at all.
His keen sharp eyes made out its pretty six-sided pattern. It looked like a star or a flower itself. It was symmetrical and looked perfect. It was delicate and seemed deliberate at the same time. Another one fell beside it. Buddy shifted his gaze. It, too, was six-sided but looked completely different. Yet, one could not doubt that they came from the same source. As striking were the differences, so were the similarities. As he observed more that fell beside the first two, he realised that they were all unique.
Buddy, of course, had stumbled upon the physical phenomenon of the snowflake. A snowflake begins when a tiny dust or pollen particle comes into contact with water vapour high in Earth’s atmosphere. The water vapour coats the tiny particle and freezes it into a tiny crystal of ice. This tiny crystal will be the “seed” from which a snowflake will grow. The molecules of water that form each tiny ice crystal naturally arrange themselves into a hexagonal (six-sided) structure, forming the familiar snowflake with six sides or six arms. However, because the specific exact journey of each snowflake falling to the ground is unique from its counterpart, experiencing different humidity, pressure, speed, and wind, its shape is completely unique and no two snowflakes look the same. That is why when you look at them, you will not mistake them for anything else and yet they are all different. Each snowflake bore the scars of its journey.
In life, have you ever been frustrated by someone? Maybe it is the way they think, the things they say, the way they feel or the deeds they do. They confuse, irritate and frustrate you. You may think, “Come on, it can’t be that difficult. See, even I got it, why can’t you?” Perhaps you look at their background and see the similarities to yours and felt the resultant mindset should be similar. After all, you both have received the same training, right? And yet, you could not be more wrong. Though he or she looked human, their thinking was completely alien. Well, you are certainly not alone.
Using the snowflake can be a useful analogy for this. When you view another human, there is no doubt that he or she is of the same species as you. However, their journey is completely different. Their childhood, environments, associations, DNA, perceptions, maturity, influences, references, beliefs and experiences will not be exactly the same to you or for that matter, anyone else in the world. These will have an effect on how they are formed, how they behave, what they say, what they do and how they think.
It is easy to have presumptions when you see a person, whether they are an old friend, relative or someone new on how they should and would act due to social norms and your own personal experiences. If you do that, you may completely miss the point in their uniqueness and fail to celebrate their journey in life. However, if you choose to empty your cup, accept that you do not know what you do not know, and embrace that person just like how you would simply marvel at the shape of a snowflake, you may start to appreciate the beauty that everyone had missed, fill your heart with gratitude that life is beautiful and possibly even learn from their journey to improve your own.
Flipping that coin on yourself, understand that you are truly unique and you possess the power to bring unique value to your world because there is no one like you. Just like a snowflake, all your past experiences, good or bad, have resulted in the beautiful shape that you are in right now. Just like how each snowflake bore the scars of its journey to obtain its unique beautiful shape as a result, all your joyful, sorrowful, ecstatic or painful past have cumulated to the present you, special and exclusive, never to be replicated. Like the snowflake, delicate, specific, deliberate and beautiful at the same time.
So, learn how to empty your cup and embrace humanity as fully as you can. Interact with another as though they are a miracle (because they are, as are you!) and learn how to see them how they want to be seen and as nature intended, overspilling with beauty and delightfully unique. Remember to apply that to yourself too!
Buddy could see and marvel at the special characteristics of snowflakes. Can you do that with yourself and the people you interact with?
‘Each snowflake bore the scars of its journey.’ – Wilson Bentley