Recently I took my children to Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium at the Mall of America. As we walked through, touching starfish and sea anemones, watching sharks get fed, I noted the difference in each animal’s ability or approach to aquatic life. The rays, gosh, they just glide through the water with barely a flick of their fins. It’s weird to even call them fins because they don’t look like what I think of as fins, I mean, sharks – now they have fins. Or sunfish that I take off fishing lines in the summer, those are fins – I’ve felt the business side of them before. But rays are so smooth and their fins are shaped differently than any other sea creature. They're just, rays, I guess, but they aren’t what I’d call typical fins. They’re different. Even watching them eat was different from the others. They could sort of trap food between themselves and the glass of the tunnel we were in and, without fingers or arms or even moving their mouths to the food, they were able to wiggle around and quick as a wink, scarf up their squid delicacy.
One of the girls was watching the sawfish trying to beat out a turtle, maneuvering in some pretty tight corners, and she commented that it must be difficult to learn to get around with that nose. It’s so huge, she thought, it must bump into things a lot at first, learning to exist.
I wondered about that. Maybe it’s like going from driving a Honda Civic to driving a station wagon or a Suburban. That takes some getting used to, but if that’s how sawfish are when they are young, do you think they have to learn to be how they are? Wouldn’t they just BE? Similar to, does a fish realize that it’s in water? Or does that realization only happen once they are out of water? What is so close, what is reality for so long, is not thought of by the person or fish as odd or weird, is it? Not until it’s compared to others? Until they see a difference.
I’m saying water to a fish is like my thought patterns to myself. It’s hard to gain perspective when they are so close to me. It’s not until I learn from other people what their thought processes/behaviors are that I’m able to see mine as being uniquely my own. It's in that moment that I am given the chance to accept who I am in the world.
After our wandering through the ocean tunnel of this underwater world was coming to a close, I again looked at the differences of these creatures that all live their life in water. Similar yet different. I contemplated whether or not there was rivalry in the water. What if there was competition, cliques in sea life? The eels lamenting over how long they are compared to the turtles. Those interesting fish with the bump on their forehead- are they ever self-conscious about it? What if, after being told that bump-free foreheads are desirable, they were offered a no-bump cream to remove the unsightly lump, would they take it? If eels could be rid of that creepy green wrinkled skin, would they change how they look? Perhaps becoming more vibrant colors like, say, a clown fish. Maybe the sea turtles are snobby and look down on the mere painted turtles. Is there a possibility of marine bullying?
Entertaining these thoughts and how ridiculous it seems for these trivial matters to plague the animal kingdom, I’m curious how it happens so easily for humans. To feel inferior because of someone else’s more shapely or lean body, financial situation, occupation, sexual orientation, or the kind of car they drive seems a little foolish with this awareness.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all beings would be secure in the knowledge that our life is valid and perfect no matter where it lands on the line of continuum? That, no matter how I live my life and the choices I make, there is no need to justify my existence. That I don’t need recognition from anyone else to validate my right to be alive and exist as an individual. That by having been created- being here, in this space, at this time- is all the substantiation that has ever been needed. That ever will be needed. It’s no longer negotiable.
What would the world look like if I were able to see others as different and not feel threatened by that difference but embrace it? Understanding that “them” being who they are makes me who I am? Ahhh…the ability to embrace such beauty. Such perfection.