The Star Thrower


Once, on ancient Earth, there was a human boy walking along a beach. There had just been a storm, and starfish had been scattered along the sands. The boy knew the fish would die, so he began to fling the fish to the sea. But every time he threw a starfish, another would wash ashore.

An old Earth man happened along and saw what the child was doing. He called out, Boy, what are you doing?  Saving the starfish! replied the boy.  But your attempts are useless, child! Every time you save one, another one returns, often the same one! You cant save them all, so why bother trying? Why does it matter, anyway? called the old man.

The boy thought about this for a while, a starfish in his hand; he answered, Well, it matters to this one. And then he flung the starfish into the welcoming sea.

— Loren Eiseley (The Star Thrower, 1978)