Aug 5, 2009
Last week I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I might lost myself for a bit while watching some male seahorses tether themselves to seaweed fronds and each other, nuzzling their very pregnant bellies together. But for the most part, I was able to keep my wits about me until I came upon the lit tank of Pacific Sea Nettles.
I love jellyfish. As I knelt inches from the glass, watching their pulsing and undulating forms move through my field of vision, I began to feel as though my heart was filling with a mysterious fluid and beginning a slow rise up through my throat. I began to drown from the inside out.
I knelt there for so long that one of my shoes broke. I had the vague sense at some point that it would be good idea for me to leave, but didn’t feel I had any command over the strange mammalian, land-dwelling body that I found surrounding me.
As I began to breathe myself back, I felt at once a deep sense of belonging to the earth and also a profound sense of being alien, ethereal. What were the odds that I would get such a chance—to inhabit this place—in this way—and alongside such creatures? I watched the jellyfish and understood that they were very much doing their job of performing the curious and delicate mystery of being alive on this planet. And this, in turn, made me want to do my respective job on the other side of the glass just as beautifully.
To be of the earth and to be human is an incidence so rare, so random, so fragile, and so precious that it warrants only one possible response from us: to do it well.