“Your greatest awakening comes when you are aware about your infinite nature.” – Amit Ray
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
I thought fish really loved pots.
But not just any pots – pots with holes in them. Pots which are actually more like vases with holes in them.
And I thought this not because I felt that fish necessarily appreciate the ornate designs of mock-shattered vases, but because I thought they liked to sleep inside them. In fact, all my hours of research clearly pointed to one solution: buy a pot. Fish like to sleep in them.
For those of you who haven’t read Fish, Love, and Companionship, you should probably know that I own a little veil-tail betta named Hemingway. I’ve had him for about four months now, and despite my inexperience as a fish-mom, I’d like to think that I’ve taken pretty good care of him. I mean, I bought him a pot after all.
But what I’ve really learned in my short time with Hemmy is that fish, like people, need room to grow. When I bought Hemmy at the pet store, he came in a tiny little plastic container with barely any water or space to swim. I thought I was doing him a favor by buying the largest glass bowl that store offered (which wasn’t much), but he wasn’t getting any happier and I soon realized that he needed more space.
So Hemmy got to move. I went to a different store and bought him the biggest bowl they carried, which was a one gallon globe with a light. After some adjusting, he took to the new size really well and enjoyed all his extra space. Four months and several battles with fin rot later, Hemmy required another move. He was probably happy in that globe, content even. But, I knew he was never going to reach his full potential in a space he had clearly outgrown.
More research and careful planning led me to a 2.5 gallon tank with a gentle filter, light, and enough space for a pot (bonus). It’s only been about a week, but I can already see Hemmy’s fins growing back together. He’s much more adventurous now, exploring every inch of his new home (having been kept in globes all his life, he was really perplexed by corners). He swims through his plants, sits by his filter, and seems to love life in his tank. However, he hasn’t once gone inside his pot.
I’ve been pretty distressed by this. Of course, I thought he would love the pot instantly. I imagined him seeing this new huge thing in the middle of his tank and immediately rushing to swim through the little holes and openings. I was so excited by my new purchase that I forgot he might actually be scared of it. He needed time to adjust. But I’m impatient.
So yesterday, when I saw him approach the big opening in the front of the pot, you can bet I was there eagerly watching to see if he’d go in. He didn’t. He stuck his head in a little bit, looked around, and then slowly backed out and went about his business. Though disappointed, I was happy he’d made a little progress. And then I had this mini-epiphany about life which is actually the real purpose of this post.
I need a bigger tank.
I’m at that point in my life right now where transition and change is good. In fact, it’s needed. If I don’t move on to the next stage of my life, I’ll start to feel cramped and all my fins will start to fall out (metaphorically, of course).
Granted, it might take baby-steps to finally find the right fit, but once I find where I’m supposed to be, everything else will fall into place. That big pot, that dream that I’ve always wanted, will be right there in front of me. I might be scared to approach it at first, but I have to try. I need to. If I don’t, it’ll still be there, but in a taunting you-never-achieved-your-dream kind of way. I can’t let that happen. I can’t work so hard to get to my own 2.5 gallon tank and then never explore all of it. Even the pot. Especially the pot.
And a special note: I just looked over to Hemingway’s tank and watched as he successfully swam through a hole in the pot. He finally did it.
Now it’s my turn.
Wake up, Master.
I’ve been sitting at the end of the bed
waiting for you to
It’s 4 a.m. Time to take me outside.
Green carpet is not grass.
I remembered to
wake up, Master.
It’s time to roll out of bed.
You can get clean
while I search for cold crunchy bacon
in the garbage can
you wake up, Master?
It’s time to eat your breakfast.
My empty bowl is on the floor
still from a week ago.
Not today, you’re late again.
I bark and I yell and you never
It’s time to leave for work. I’ll watch you go
in that machine that smells like hospitals.
Don’t worry, I’ll protect
the house while you
wake up, Master.
It’s time for me to nap a while too, dreaming of
when I can leap up, lick your face,
but I forgot: no jumping when you
It’s time for you to come home so I can
drop my lamb at your feet, the one you bought me once you
wake up, Master.
It’s time to pat my head and,
when you do, that’s all I’ll need.
But until then, I’m still sitting here,
waiting for you to open your eyes,
and see my smiling face.
I just wanted to say thank you.
Thank you for being there for me when I needed it most. Thank you for supporting me with your kind words of encouragement.
Thank you for coming back each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Thank you for listening to me struggle through words to express my thoughts on life. Thank you for actually being interested in reading my ramblings.
Thank you for putting up with all my cheesy inspirational posts. Thank you for not unfollowing because you don’t like every idea I put out. Thank you for staying.
Thank you for hitting the like button, even if you can’t find the right thing to say in a comment. Thank you, because I understand.
Thank you for banding together and making my dreams possible. Thank you for the overwhelming response I thought would take years to achieve.
Thank you for sticking with me through my rejections and failures. Thank you for being that support team that every good writer – every human— needs to make it through.
Thank you for letting me give you the best advice I can, whether you take it or not. Thank you for understanding where I’m coming from and relating to me. Thank you for the constant reminder that I am not alone in this.
Thank you for reading this obnoxiously repetitive thank you letter. Thank you for you.
“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one.”*
Which here means, fish.
Well actually, I suppose he’s not dead yet…
Let’s start over.
It’s a curious thing, the almost-death of a pet fish.
You know death will come eventually, but when a fellow life-form shows signs of distress, you want to help – fish or not.
The relationship between a fish and its owner can be a little complex, though. Fish are not animals with which we humans can cuddle. We cannot hold them, pet them, or let them sleep in our beds – all the signs generally associated with human-to-pet love.
And yet, we become quite attached to them, don’t we? At least I did.
They’re something to be nurtured and cared for as you watch them grow. Your fish becomes your little companion.
So when something seems off, naturally, you become alarmed.
I’ve had my fish for about a month (a betta named Hemingway), and during that time he’s overcome quite a bit of adversity: being originally stored in a small bowl, then being transferred to a more spacious tank, adjusting to dorm living, and surviving the six hour drive home and back for spring break.
This fish is indestructible.
But after a decently regular weekend, he’s begun to act a tad strangely. He wouldn’t eat for two days and he wouldn’t move from one spot for the whole of Sunday. Honestly, I was a bit concerned.
I tried just about every remedy I could find and yet nothing seemed to cure him. I went to bed last night praying I wouldn’t wake up to Hemingway belly-up.
This morning was better. He actually ate today and has been moving around his tank more. Although he still doesn’t seem quite himself, I remain hopeful.
Despite my feeling utterly helpless, I think this situation shows the kind of lengths some people are willing to go for those they care about. Some pet owners may have been a bit more gung-ho about giving Hemingway a one-way ticket to the ocean, but I, now that I have him, cannot imagine a life without my bright little companion, and I would do anything to keep him happy and healthy. That’s what love is, right?
*A quote by the wonderful Lemony Snicket
Life, in many ways, cannot be seen. Like love, freedom, and happiness, we cannot hold life in our hands. But all the while, there are signs of it. The bleating of a newborn lamb, the kick of a baby inside the womb, the soft hum of a beehive – all are recognizable indications of living beings. We know life is among us without ever feeling the rush of blood as it shoots through our bodies, as it powers our minds and stimulates the low thump-thump of our hearts. It is this very stream of life that connects animals to humans. Though not of the same species, we are of the same life source. We share feelings of pain and pleasure, understand the necessity of family, and are aware of the world around us. Both animals and humans are inhabitants of this earth, both brothers of life. Why should animals be treated as anything less?
It is not uncommon for humans to believe that those who we think are not like us are not capable of feeling like us. Humans may be the only beings to experience the jarring head trauma associated with car crashes – the head-splitting burst of pain, the sudden jerk of the neck as it is propelled in an unnaturally backward direction. However, a pig or dog may receive the same blow to the head from a butcher or rough owner beating it within an inch of its life. The same scalding pain and smell of singed hair can be experienced not only by a human whose straightening iron was accidentally touched to the head for far too long, but also by a cow who was just burned with a hot, metal brand. The very same nerves that send pain-messages from the body to the brain that reside in humans also reside in animals. Similarly, this pain is expressed by both man and creature alike with a screech or a removal from the unpleasant situation.
The idea of pain leads to an awareness of surroundings. If an animal or human ever comes in contact with this unpleasant stimulus again, it knows to avoid it. To be conscious, in essence, is to have an awareness of one’s environment and be able to interact with it. Do not both animals and humans interact with their environments? If they didn’t, would they not be like rocks sitting on the ground, able to be manipulated…just there? The ability to distinguish between stimuli in the environment, learn from experiences with these stimuli, and respond, are all characteristics of conscious beings. Granted, to be conscious and to have a conscience are not the same thing. One deals with a more basic instinct to survive and the other involves a higher level of reasoning and thought based on moral rights and wrongs. But just because humans have consciences does not mean that every human is able to draw the line between right and wrong properly; therefore, having a conscience is not necessarily means for determining authority.
The ability to think is not the only trait we humans pride ourselves on, though. The capacity for emotion and ability to feel is also something humans believe is a dividing line between themselves and animals. When a fellow member of our species has cancer, we rally together to raise money for surgery. When a member of our family is caught in a burning building, many of us would run back inside to save him or her. We believe that our ability to love is our most highly praised quality. We tend not to recognize the noticeable similarities in how animals deal with grief and support their own kind. For example, it is common practice in certain Asian countries to hunt dolphin. This is done by stabbing one dolphin with a harpoon until it bleeds profusely out into the water. When this happens, the other dolphins nearby will come to the rescue of the injured dolphin every time. This enables the hunters to catch more dolphins at once. Dolphins never abandon a wounded family member, and the hunters know this. In Africa, when a lioness’s cub falls down the side of a ravine, she will risk her own life to climb down the precariously steep slope to rescue her baby. It is a mother’s instinct, human or not.
However, there are some of us, and possibly some animals, who would not run into that burning building. As humans, we struggle with the choice of doing what benefits us most and what benefits others. With a conscience comes a price, as we must choose between what is wrong and what is right. It is both our gift and our burden to bear.
As children, we were always taught that bringing pain and suffering to others was wrong, that we should act how we wish to be treated. We were scolded, reprimanded for hitting our younger sibling or for getting into fights at school. In this unique family system comprised of all that is living and all that is sentient, humans have become the gifted older children and animals, the younger and more naïve. We are hitting our younger siblings. We are hitting them, pulling their hair, calling them names, and picking on them. We think we are better, more able, and smarter than they are. For this, we need to be chastised. We need to be slapped on the hand, the same hand we slapped our siblings with.
It is here that our conscience burdens us. We choose to hit our siblings because it is the easiest choice. It is the most convenient choice. We believe it right to hit our siblings because it is the most beneficial for us. It is here that we have erred. What we have believed to be right for so many years is, in fact, wrong. Animals do not deserve to be treated as lower beings. They are aware of the world, feel pain, have emotions; so much of them is exactly like us, yet we continue to abuse them. Never as children did we learn that it was okay to bring suffering to others, so why should it be okay now?
Like life, we cannot hold right and wrong in our hands. But, we know they are there. We know the difference. As humans, our ability to distinguish between the two and act on them is our only upperhand. Animals and humans live in the same world, hearts beating as one. It is not right to abuse our brothers, yet that is what we have been doing. It is this wrong that we must right.