Monday, October 27, 2008

A fish out of water

As I buried my fish, I was struck by a thought: the only instance in which we were in the same physical space together, in the open air, was upon his death.

We were both born in water, but it's not where people are meant to reside. The water barrier cannot be crossed both ways. Jake's glistening little body had to be lifeless against the earth because the earth can never be his home. It somehow made me think of inter-dimensionality, and the modes in which we exist--the places we directly experience and those we cannot because of our limited physical capabilities.

A bowl on my end table, a fish never leaving water, never moving beyond the confines of the glass. There is sadness in that recognition of separation.

We are all separate from each other, just as our bodies exist to uniquely contain each one of us apart from all others. And yet, we still strive, we still find ways to overcome our difference and connect, with or without words. Across the divide. In some ways, we are one.

As for me and my fish, there were messages sent and received despite the barriers of bowl and water. We "played" chase as I would drag my finger around the outside of the glass; he would move near me as I sat to watch TV; he turned to face me as he was dying, gasping for air while perched upon his tiny plastic plant.

We can connect with or without words, with and without our bodies. It makes me wonder about what else exists--what are those places of which we may have no awareness, other dimensions, perhaps, and do we touch, do we overlap, in those dimensions?

As for separation and death, perhaps death is what frees us from the physical constraints of our perceptions. Perhaps only in death can we transcend cause-and-effect time and reach a place where we are both separate and one, in time and outside of it. After all, time is merely one dimension. We are current prisoners of our linear perception, but that is not all there is.

We fear death. Culturally, we think of it as something to be hated, to be overcome. No one wants to die. But death will always be a reality, and as such, there must be something positive about it. Maybe the gift of death is to embody the paradox. To be apart from, yet to be with all.

Maybe in death we have a moment to see ourselves as we truly are, both our good and our bad, concurrently. Perhaps our life is simply practice for this ultimate state of contradiction that spans across borders we currently cannot see. Perhaps death simultaneously holds us in all that we are, all our love and hate, all of us that lives in the past and the future.

I've recently been listening to some music I haven't heard in years. I was struck by "Hyperdrive" from the 1974 album Dragonfly by Jefferson Starship, which is about the present, past and the future and the paradox of existence in time:

    And If it rains again tonight, I can think light years ahead

    Or I could put myself back a thousand years ago

    As if I'd always been here before or as if I am still to be born

    I'm a slow loser, but I'm a fast learner

    That much I know

    Anyone can go

    That much I know

    Anyone can go
And you will. Because you're already here.


Rational Answers said...

As you know I’ve been spending a lot of time in contemplation at the interface between rationality and spirituality. I can’t say I’m surprised by how well your poetically intuitive interpretation lines up with my pedestrian inductive understanding, but I am nonetheless impressed and encouraged.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was honestly kind of a beautiful fish elegy. Our parakeet died the other day (we had her for 9 years) and I thought some of the same things, how sad it was that she was finally outside with the other birds and free from her cage, except she was buried. thanks for putting it all so eloquently. Fish and birds are kept in a strange and sad captivity that dog and cats don't seem to suffer from in the same way.

Major Generalist said...

Thanks so much for both of your comments.

As for Anonymous, I'm very sorry to hear of your loss. And I'm touched that you, too, had similar thoughts about how your parakeet was finally free, but at the greatest price. It's true--we do seem to keep birds and fish and other small animals in captive conditions that are deeply problematic.

I can only hope that we gave our pets a good life. I would say that from your thoughts, you are a conscientious person who at least took the time to consider the quality of your pet's life, and as such, took good care of your pet.

My sympathies.