Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Monday, September 10, 2012

A lesson from a goldfish

My niece once saved a "feeder" goldfish at a petstore, one that was destined to be fed to larger fish in an aquarium.  She put the goldfish in a goldfish bowl, and it went with her to college and came back home with her afterward, living to quite a ripe old age for a goldfish that was supposed to be fish food.

It was a very pretty goldfish, and when visiting one Christmas I had occasion to see it and it was floating in the center of bowl, just staring out through the glass, occasionally twitching a fin to keep itself levitated in the middle of its universe.

I said to my sister, "I wonder if it is bored."

She said, "Well, it's probably a lot better off than being in a lake, being chased by bigger fish, just trying to survive."

And it struck me in that moment -- it is the predators in our lives that give our lives purpose.

I can't imagine being HAPPY being a goldfish in a bowl, even a well-tended bowl like this one had, with my niece doting upon it, providing food, cleaning the water frequently, and occasionally looking in and maybe talking to it.  There is more to life than eating and pooping, which is all that goldfish had.

Would you like to be in a nice, safe rubber room, with your meals provided, safety assured, and NOTHING TO DO?  Even if you had a deck of cards or a book, are we really MEANT to simply exist?  To eat and die and accomplish nothing in between?

Ask any prisoner, who essentially lives in a goldfish bowl, with safety and meals assured and little to do.  If it was all that great, they wouldn't dream of breaking out, being on the run, being chased by their predators.

There is something to be said about the accomplishment of SURVIVAL.  I suspect that fish would have been happier if it had to look for its food, and had the occasional thrill of eluding capture.  And at some point, when it actually got captured, it would die having SURVIVED up until then.  Not just existed.

There is no sense of accomplishment in having stuff given to you.  There is satsifaction in making it through the hard times, finding ways to survive even when times are tough.  There was a time when this was part of our national culture -- the desire NOT to take a handout.  Taking a handout was seen as a personal failure.

But now . . . sadly . . . a large percentage of our population thinks it's just fine to be a goldfish in a bowl, having meals delivered up and not having to work for them.  It's fine to have a roof over your head that you did nothing to acquire. 

But how much more satisfying would it be to FIND the way to survive.  To WORK for what you receive.  To help someone else, so they can help you, and you can both survive. 

I think the predators in our lives give our life meaning and purpose -- the predators of the banker, who wants that loan repaid that you took out to buy something you didn't need or more house than you could afford, the grocer who wants to be paid for the food you eat, the doctor who cured your illness, the plumber who fixed your toilet -- you can run from them by filing bankruptcy, but how much more satisfying to make it through life through YOUR efforts, rather than by taking from someone else.

Embrace your predators.  Rise to meet their challenge.  Win.  Or die trying.

That is what life is about.

And that's a philosophical moment from the Ranch.

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