The Message of the Seashell
Wondrous beauty can be found on the world's beaches, small and miraculous souvenirs of heaven's beauty.
For reasons completely unknown, the golden ratio appears in countless natural designs, from sunflower florets to the hexagonal patterns on the skin of pineapples. Structures patterned on the golden ratio are mysteriously pleasing to the eye, and the formula appears also in such human creations as the pyramids of Egypt, the Parthenon in Greece, and even Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa.”
As mysterious to science as the mathematical intricacy underlying the shell’s spiral structure is the persistent question of why cells take such a dazzling array of shapes and patterns. Bright and colorful patterns in animals often attract the opposite sex. But as the world’s shell-bearing mollusks don’t possess eyes sophisticated enough to register such patterns, this explanation doesn’t hold up. Vibrant colors can also be used by animals as warning signals: a ways of saying, “Stay away from me, I’m dangerous.” This explanation doesn’t apply to the shell either, however, because as nature writer Hilda Simon points out, Many snails with bright colors are coveted food items.” Science’s best stab at accounting for the shell? Simon quotes the famous Swiss zoologist Adolf Portman, who has said that shells might be the snail’s “self-expression.”
But whatever message the shells of the world present to other animals, the one they hold out to us is, to my mind, still best explained by what my father said to me that day on the beach at Sanibel. Like the ocean, life itself is turbulent and chaotic—full of winds and waves and unexpected storms. Yet behind this not always tranquil world, there lies another one, of beauty and harmony and heavenly perfection. It’s a world we get reminded of when, walking on the beach, we look down and see a little piece of it right at our feet.
Photos Courtesy of ALLPOSTERS.com