Diamond dust

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Every day we read in the newspapers and magazines about someone discovering a hermit in the mountains, the desert, or some other inaccessible place. Charles Kuralt recently interviewed one on television. He was flown into a glacier that could only be reached by plane, and then only if the weather was right. The man he went to interview wanted to get away from it all and meditate.

But these people who escape to distant places are leaving a mine of diamond dust behind.

Perhaps all of us at times would like to get away from traffic, organizations , and other people. And if we did, what then?

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A classmate came over to me one day and said, ''I have a quotation I want to give to you. I think it fits in with the discussion we had yesterday.''

She handed me a small slip of tablet paper on which were written the following words: ''As diamond dust makes other diamonds shine,/So minds are polished bright by other minds.''

''Who wrote that?'' I asked.

She laughed. ''I don't know. It was a favorite quotation of my mother's. When I was growing up, I was timid and I never wanted to be with other people. As I grew older, I still felt the same way and I complained to my mother.

'' 'Everybody knows so much more than I do,' I said. I am ashamed to be with them. They are so much smarter than I am. I feel as if I want to run away and be all by myself.'

''She listened to my complaints and then she said, 'Darling, you need to be with people who know more than you do so you will learn. You will never learn anything all by yourself. You need to learn from the rich experience of other people.'

'' 'But if I sit by myself and think, I don't feel so ignorant,' I answered.

''I remember our talk so well. She got up from her chair and went over to the table and brought back a book, and from it she took a slip of paper with some lines on it.

'' 'Take this, Lucy, and copy it down. Whenever you begin to think that you don't want to be with people, look at it and read it, or better yet, memorize it , so that you will always have it with you.'

''This was the quotation my mother handed me, and I have kept it all these years. That class discussion yesterday interested me because you were insisting that people grew intellectually by being with other people, that the things other people said made you think.''

Later I looked at that slip of paper and thought about what Lucy had said. It seemed to me that the people who never want to be with people, who don't really like people, aren't really very interesting. You have some ideas of your own, but other people stimulate them. The diamond dust of other people's thinking really polishes up your own. Think how many ideas people have given you which made you think of other things you had never dreamed about.

This is a fascinating world in which to live. Things are happening so fast that we can't keep up with them, and we need to be with people. As the quotation says, ''As diamond dust makes other diamonds shine,/ So minds are polished bright by other minds.'' We need to have our minds polished this way. We might even have ideas that seem unimportant to us, but that will help polish other people's minds.

Sometimes I think, ''Oh, if I could only escape to a desert island where there is nothing but a palm tree'': And then I think again. ''Why not see if I can find some interesting person who will polish up my mind?''

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