Lessons From an Urchin

This is Wilson.

Wilson is a blue tuxedo urchin (aka “globe urchin” – Mespilia globulus). The reason for his name should be obvious – from the top he looks strikingly like a tennis ball (pun intended).

From the bottom, he looks like this:

That’s his mouth in the center. The five “teeth” are known as “Aristotle’s lantern,” based on a description of the urchin’s mouth in Aristotle’s History of Animals. The teeth are self-sharpening. Many urchins feed on algae or other objects attached to rock, and their teeth can apparently chew through stone.

Wilson prefers seaweed.

He also likes algae, and left to his own devices he periodically rampages through the tank (in very slow motion), cleaning algae off the rocks and picking up loose objects to camouflage himself.

There are no predators in the tank, but urchins aren’t known for situational awareness.

During his wanderings Wilson picks up loose coral frags (and anything else that isn’t glued down or moved out of his path). He doesn’t hurt the corals but he makes a pretty good mess. He grabs sand, shells, rocks, and anything else he can find – including live snails, which must be rescued from his back before they starve.

I love Wilson, but you have to watch him. He gets out of hand sometimes.

Life is like an urchin. It alternates between pretty, frustrating, and covered in so much junk you can barely see what’s underneath. Some days it barely moves at all and others you can’t take your eyes off it or all kinds of mayhem breaks loose – usually in slow motion. You see it coming but can’t do much to avoid it.

On days like that, the best approach is twofold: try to divert disaster by distraction (seaweed optional), and if that doesn’t work hang on and pray and do your best to solve the problem without frustration. Man’s anger doesn’t work righteousness, and the urchin doesn’t care about your mood. By contrast, kindness goes a very long way.

Many of the people, creatures and events that cause us stress have no idea they’re causing problems. They’re just doing what they do. It’s our reaction that makes a difference – and that is always a choice. Frustration comes easily. Patience is hard. But in the end, it’s patience that gets rewarded with the sight of a happy urchin – or family, or friend.

It’s the truth.

An urchin taught me so.

2 thoughts on “Lessons From an Urchin

  • May 10, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I love your post. It is so true. Sure helps with all the situations going on around these parts that I am trying to cope with.

    • May 11, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Thanks Wynd. I’m glad it helped you too. It was a good reminder for me this morning. Sorry I haven’t seen you online in a while, hopefully we can catch up soon!

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