Larry Banman – We are a kaleidoscope of many grains of sand
August 13, 2009
At a recent wedding, I was introduced to a wedding sand ceremony. The basis of the ceremony is that two vessels of sand are poured together into a third keepsake vessel to represent the coming together of two lives.
The purpose of the ceremony is to illustrate the nature of joining two lives together into the union of marriage. The individual containers represent the separate lives, families and sets of friends of the bride and groom. When they are poured into the third vessel, it symbolizes that the individual containers no longer exist and the grains of sand in the third container can never be separated.
It illustrates that marriage, by its very nature, intertwines two lives. It is also a call to a commitment to make this new single union inseparable.
One variation of the sand ceremony is to have the couple’s closest friends and family members pour in different-colored sand and then shake the vessel and the sand becomes not a number of separate colors and layers, but a new color that is different than the color of the sand that came from the individual containers.
The more I thought about the sand ceremony, the more I realized that it represents more than the joining of a man and a wife in marriage. It illustrates a basic truism about life. We each represent the grains of sand from the vessels of numerous people. The influences in our lives, in large part, shape who we become and, primarily, those influences come from other people.
There are a few Jeremiah Johnsons in the world. The subject of a 1972 film directed by Syndey Pollack and starring Robert Redford, Johnson was a mountain man who tried to find solace and refuge in the West. Jaded from his experiences in the Mexican War in 1846-48, he sought to fill his life with as little human interaction as possible. But even he couldn’t escape interaction with other mountain men and, briefly, he had a wife and an adopted son.
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For the vast majority of the rest of us, we have daily interactions with other people and those people drop a little sand into our vessels during each of those interactions. Conversely, we pour a little of our sand into their vessels at the same time. I don’t mean to imply that we have no control over how those influences affect our lives, but I do believe that each and every interaction helps to shape and “color” our lives.
How often have you heard somebody say that a single positive comment made the difference in an otherwise dreary day, week or even life? How often have you heard that somebody say they could never forget a slight from a person they respected? Those grains of sand may not even be visible in a person’s vessel of life, but they are an integral part of that life. And, those grains cannot be removed.
To me, thinking about the sand ceremony has been a great mental exercise in considering how I will distribute my grains of sand. To some extent, we can control which grains of sand drop into our vessel. We can be careful where we go, who we see and what we talk about. However, we acquire some grains of sand despite our best efforts to avoid those influences. What we have more control over is how our grains of sand are distributed.
I don’t know if we fully appreciate how powerful our words and actions are in the lives of others. I don’t know if we fully comprehend the chain of events that we trigger with either negative or positive interactions. I think we need to be judicious in deciding how we distribute our grains of sand in the lives of those with whom we share this existence.