Being Grateful for Your Uniqueness
Welcome! Have you ever wondered if it is really true that no two snowflakes are alike? Well, scientists tell us that variations among complex snow crystals are purely limitless. Many snowflakes look alike – even under the microscope – but at closer examination, they differ. Even with 1024 snowflakes per year, the probability of two exactly identical snow crystals happening within the lifetime of the universe is practically zero.
Given the infinitely greater complexity of a human person, you may be absolutely sure that there never was, not ever will be, anyone like you. Would you like to explore this uniqueness more deeply? The steps of this exercise have a double goal: to give you pleasure and to deepen your gratefulness.
Let’s start with those snowflakes. In 1865, the year Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and Louis Carroll published Alice in Wonderland, a boy was born on the Bentley farm in the township of Jericho, Vermont. In the snowy winters of his childhood, little Wilson Bentley had plenty of opportunity to watch snowflakes. As he helped with chores in the farmyard, these tiny marvels would settle on his sleeve and melt too quickly for him to get a good look at them. He, too, wondered if any two of them were ever alike. He sunk his teeth into that question; like his puppy dog who wouldn’t let go of a bone, Wilson Bentley’s mind wouldn’t let go of snowflakes.
Photography – brand new at the time – also fascinated Bentley. Photographic plates, the forerunners of films for cameras, had just come on to the market when he was 11. By the time he was 20, this young farmer had adapted a bellows camera to a microscope, and so became the first person ever to photograph a snowflake. He would capture more than 5,000 of them during his lifetime. When he died, 46 years later, on that same farmstead in Jericho, Vermont, he was known as “Snowflake Bentley,” since his pictures of snowflakes were famous throughout the world. In 1931, the year of his death, he published some 2,400 of his images in the book Snow Crystals, which is still available, delighting ever-new generations of nature lovers.
Of course, the art of photo-microscopy has made vast progress since then. Here you’ll find images taken in 2002 by Patricia Rasmussen, six of them, all from the same snowfall. Click on View Snow Crystals to open a new page. Choose your favorite snowflake. Click on it to enlarge it, and let its beauty sink in.
What fascinates us in snowflakes – and wherever else we come across it, in nature or in art – is the combination of sameness and diversity: the same six-fold symmetry of the basic pattern repeated millions of times and yet in ever-new variations of detail. Stay with the snow crystal you have enlarged. Look at it long and deeply enough to let the delight of your eyes reverberate through your whole body.
Is there a central preoccupation in your life, a melodic thread that runs through its entire symphony? If you can name it right now, you have much reason to be grateful. But even if you cannot name it, this guiding theme may be woven into the music of your days, and you need only listen more carefully. Try to do so now. Is there an area of interest that fascinates you again and again, as snow crystals fascinated that Vermont farm boy? The possibilities are infinite: they reach from needlework to rock climbing, from bird watching to coin collecting, from English country dancing to writing haiku, from watching films to giving your friends foot massages.
You will find other examples on the Creativity message board. Let those prime your pump; then add your own message. Two people’s interests may look alike, but when you look more closely, they are different after all, like snowflakes.
Good! You have allowed yourself to derive pleasure from the tension between sameness and diversity, repetition and variation. You have applied this to your own slant on an interest you may share with many others. You are one of more than six billion human beings, and yet you are unique. The way your uniqueness shows itself most decisively, though, is not in your hobbies or idiosyncrasies, but in what you make of your life as a whole.
Choose one from the many short biographies on our site, one of your favorites or one you’ve never read. Read it thoughtfully, and try to find one word or sentence that characterizes the unique gift that person gave to the world.
Has the life of this Gift Person, with its courage amidst difficulties, inspired you? This is the moment to ask yourself, “What is it that makes my own life worth the trouble?” You know the answer, or else you would not take another breath. You know the answer, but you need to express it to yourself simply and clearly. There lies your unique contribution to the unfolding of the universe. As Eckhart Tolle put it, “You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!”
Take a small step back from the daily pace of your life and view it as if you were writing a Gift Person biography. Write a sentence or paragraph describing the gift that your life offers our world. Go a step further, and read this description as if you were discovering yourself for the first time.
As you become increasingly aware of your uniqueness, you will grow ever more grateful for the gift of your life. If you have found this practice session helpful, please tell a friend about it. And thank you for helping your website to make its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the divine purpose of the universe.