You Are a Jellyfish On the Lip of the Vast Bowl That Holds the Sea

By Don Hall

A long time ago, it was commonly known that the Earth was both flat and that the sun revolved around it rather than the other way around. People believed that women who were too emotional needed to have primitive devices masturbate them to relieve their hysteria. Most diseases, it was believed, could be cured by bleeding out the illness or by placing leeches on the body to suck out the sickness. It was commonly held that if one reduced the taxes on the wealthiest, the savings would trickle down to the rest of us.

Today we can look back on all of this and giggle at our collective gullibility in believing absolute unvarnished horseshit.

At one point in my life, I believed I would never be divorced. I was wrong. After I was divorced, I thought I'd never fall in love again and remarry. Once I remarried and was handed yet another divorce, I was absolutely certain I would never love another woman with that passion and dedication again. Wrong again.

I believed that being fat was my sure way to surviving the coming Ice Age. I believed that killer bees were coming and would swarm the Midwest. I believed that crime never pays, that exercise was a waste of time, that sex was a transactional act rather than a mutual intimacy. I thought that fame would bring me happiness, that money would bring me joy, that happiness was a goal to be pursued rather than the result of choices.

I, like all of us, was perpetually full of shit.

I was wrong about almost everything and I can look back upon these beliefs I held and know how fucking wrong I was. It would be easy to believe that I am now as evolved as I can be and am right about most things. And in five years, I will look back at today and chuckle at how fucking thick I was to think I was ever going to be right about culture, love, happiness, society and health.

So at last the [jellyfish] began its story. “The universe,” it said, “was born a long, long time ago, perhaps ten or fifteen billion years ago. Our own solar system—this star, this planet and all the others—seem to have come into being some two or three billion years ago. For a long time, nothing whatever lived here. But then, after a billion years or so, life appeared.”

“Excuse me,” the anthropologist said. “You say that life appeared. Where did that happen, according to your myth—I mean, according to your scientific account.”

The creature seemed baffled by the question and turned a pale lavender. “Do you mean in what precise spot?”

“No. I mean, did this happen on the land or in the sea?”

“Land?” the other asked. “What is land?”

“Oh, you know,” he said, waving toward the shore, “the expanse of dirt and rocks that begins over there.”

The creature turned a deeper shade of lavender and said, “I can’t imagine what you’re gibbering about. The dirt and rocks over there are simply the lip of the vast bowl that holds the sea.”

“Oh yes,” the anthropologist said, “I see what you mean. Quite. Go on.”

“Very well,” the other said. “For many millions of centuries the life of the world was merely microorganisms floating helplessly in a chemical broth. But little by little, more complex forms appeared: single-celled creatures, slimes, algae, polyps, and so on.

“But finally,” the creature said, turning quite pink with pride as he came to the climax of his story, “but finally jellyfish appeared!”

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

I've been that fucking jellyfish for most of my life. Just blindly arrogant enough to believe that the state I am in right now is the best and most knowledgable I will be. Like Plato's cave dweller, I've seen the shadows on the wall and thought I knew what was going on with a certainty only the truly ignorant can possess.

I often say that meeting Dana has been a game changer and, in this regard, it has been. The new reality of falling in love again and hitching my wagon to hers has put it all into a bizarre Hitchcock Dolly Zoom, forcing my perspective in brand new ways. I mean, if I was mistaken about never finding my Soul Mate, about what else might I be wrong?

Almost everything it turns out. I'm OK with that, though.

On some level, knowing that my assumptions are almost completely flawed most of the time makes it easier to look at them and critically dissect the Wrong from the Less Wrong. Walking away from the assumptions Life has handed me gives me the courage to do the unexpected and take the big risks when I'm supposed to be risking things.

Christ, I'm probably wrong about this, too.