In the early 1990's I proudly owned a fish tank and in that tank lived baby Cichlids, a Catfish and an orange fish that I thought was a Cichlid, but wasn't. I'd always wanted a fish tank in my dining room since falling in love with one in the dentist surgery waiting room and in the local Chinese Restaurant I frequented. Waiting for my food to be served, I'd watch the peaceful belly dancing of the bubble mouthing fish while my partner probably sat silently wondering why he bothered leaving the house - but this is another story. I found watching domesticated fish so relaxing that I wanted them in my home. So one day, I grabbed the opportunity to swap my big fat old camcorder with a friend in exchange for his hippy multi-coloured 4 by 4 fish tank and with enthusiasm my partner organised the water, air filter, ground pebbles and plants of the world that our fish were going to play, eat, sleep, reproduce and deficate in.
As Jose's animation was reminding me, humans have done a pretty poor job of looking after the environment they live in. This feeling of doing a poor job immediately led my thoughts to the poor job I did of looking after my fish. My poor management of my fishes lives came about because I wasn't aware of how toxic defication can be in the small world they lived in. I loved my fish so much I overfed them despite the warning on the label that said 'do not overfeed Cichlids'. They gobbled up the food so I thought it was OK to keep on upsizing them: And upsize they did, for Cichlids have the capability to grow very quickly and very big. The bigger and fatter they grew, the more their water needed changing in order to keep the ph levels at a level the fish could breathe in. I didn't realise their environment was becoming toxic until I noticed my poor fish had decided to give space a chance. One by one my massive Cichlids were jumping out of the tank, smacking the dining room floor and wrything to avoid air suffocation. I was scared. I'd never seen mass fish suicide before and it upset me that something was wrong and I didn't know what it was; despite suspecting that I was probably at fault for not changing the water enough. But this story isn't all about suicidal Cichlids, its about the orange fish. The little orange fish, that no matter how much food I put in the tank, it never grew any bigger. No matter how much the ph level changed, or how much the Cichlids contaminated it's home, it swam on. It was early one morning, when I was trying to save a magnificent blue black Cichlid from dying, I noticed the orange fish was trying to save the others waiting for their turn to jump into space. Was it my imagination or had Orange just become aware of me because she kept looking beyond the glass, frantically flapping her fins at me then at them as if to try and stop them from jumping out of the tank. She was probably bubbling 'don't go out there or you'll die", but what options did they have? I plopped the beautiful fat blue black Cichlid back into the water and immediately it jumped out again. This one wanted to follow the leader and I know it sounds weird but I felt that I had just connected with that little orange fish who was trying to save its family. When it glanced fearfully out through the glass, it was like Orange knew something was out there that wasn't helpful to fish, and strange as it may seem, this sense of connection made me feel like a God. It was my fault. I had let the fish get bigger and bigger and no matter how many times I cleaned the tank, the defication from the fish was more than the small tank could bear. They really needed a bigger home, but just like God, the home they had was all I had to offer.
After the Cichlids toilet flushing funerals, Orange and I had a little stare at eachother. Orange was surviving my inexperience so well that my partner bought it some company. They all loved my ph level carers comfort zone so much that within a couple weeks both Orange and a younger orange had nested lots of tiny white eggs. So Orange was a she and she was having a hell of a time with the younger mother who was acting aggressively towards her whenever Orange swam near her eggs. This aggression along with the male trying to eat the female eggs had Orange flapping her fins at me again. As she was fighting to protect her eggs she would look at me, watching the crisis inside of the tank, as if asking for my help. I felt she was connecting with her God and this God felt the weight of judgment day approaching. I felt she was looking for her God to protect her. But I, as a human God, was inexperienced and on reflection, the decisions I made were not in her best interest, despite my good intentions. In the end Orange and her unhatched eggs died and it was all my fault because my ignorance and God like inexperience ended her world. All she wanted to do was survive and reproduce her species. She trusted me, her God, and I didn't save her or the others for that matter. After her death, after all their deaths, I stored away the fishtank. I couldn't bare to not look after fish anymore. After humanity's death, do you think God will feel guilty and store away the earth?
Years later the fish tank was exchanged yet again and became a hot house for weeds. The tank still existed, but for a different purpose. Is this what humans want their home to be used for after their death, a breeding ground for weeds? It seems to me that if we want to keep our home in good condition, we certainly need to do something about it yesterday.
Yesterday, the fragility of humanity was intimately understood because of the baby boom that happened after the destitution of the two World Wars. Yet, whatever happened to the wisdom of the ages because some of us still don't get it. In some civilisations, the baby boom continues, yet globally so do does political and economic war. Only people are not jumping off the earth into space to commit suicide or are they? Melting polar ice caps, earthquakes and tsunami's are telling us quite clearly that the outcomes are fouling up our fish tank. What options do we have?
As I watched Jose's fine annimation, I found myself wondering if humans are as dependent on Godlike forces as much as the Cichlids were. My Cichlids consumed and deficated just because life simply was provided by the heavens. When they found their skins burning from toxic living conditions, the Cichlids turned to the heavens for salvation and that salvation was air. Is this what we are doing to ourselves in this age of the fish? Looking towards the heavens for the answers about our contaminated waters? Surely we are more intellegent than that. Surely we can do something about reversing the contamination ourselves?
When I was at school in the 1970's humans were hell bent on killing eachother. Thirty years on and it seems like nothing much has changed other than the way we categorise our killing activities. I can still see the fear in the eyes of that vulnerable and fragile orange fish, and I look and I listen to the ongoing saga of humanities environmental suicide, feeling the weight of my daughters future upon me. Jose's shares her common future and strangely this thought provokes me to think about my God like status over fish.
The real victim in this story belongs to the Catfish. From beginning to end this shy and peaceful fish kept on working, eating up the mess on the floor of the tank no matter how toxic the conditions. The little Catfish cleaned up alone and probably could have done with some help. It worked so hard at cleaning up the mess, that it became the mess and was forgotten until the tank was drained of water and it's freedom became the pipe that led away from the kitchen sink. © 2011 The Shy Editor