To mark ten years this month since I finished school, this recently rediscovered essay that I wrote in Upper Sixth takes a light-hearted view of things from a different perspective.
In this essay we will examine life as a goldfish, the benefits and advantages as well as the more negative aspects. While looking at the specific case study of one particular Carassius auratus, we will also consider the historical and contemporary opinions associated with life as a goldfish in a captive setting. Although intended to enlighten and inform on the complexities of the goldfish’s existence, the author accepts no responsibility for those of the anti-goldfish lobby such as cats who are offended by this personal account of and view on goldfish life.
Contrary to public opinion, life as a goldfish is both exciting and stimulating, and while the myth of the 3 second memory span has been perpetrated for generations by those whose interests are clearly detrimental to the reputation of goldfish, this is absolutely false. The average goldfish memory has been shown to be a much more significant 4.2 seconds. While these less intellectual members of our brethren do tend to bring the species into disrepute by swimming into walls (damn) and chasing their tails, the more educated of the goldfish community, such as my esteemed self, do our utmost and work tirelessly to uphold the common good of the auratus species. For the benefit of the more casual observer we will now look at a day in my life as a commom golden red goldfish.
The day begins rather early as I rise from my mindless stupor of continual swimming that is needed even through the night to keep oxygen flowing through my gills. During the night this swimming is conducted in a slow vegetable state that is done automatically therefore saving valuable brain cells. Feeding follows soon after in the form of dried fish food sprinkled on the water’s surface by my owner and a feeding frenzy ensues in which the goldfish’s more primal nature can come to the fore. Aggression and violence are the order of the day as every fish struggles to eat its fill, and if we were lucky enough to have teeth, serious injuries could be caused on a daily basis. Thankfully grudges are not held as most forget by the next meal who bit them at the last! A leisurely tour of the fish tank is then conducted to burn of excess calories and the remainder of the morning and afternoon are spent in a variety of pursuits such as sucking pebbles on the tank floor, swimming laps, chasing each other and playing hide-and-seek through the plants and ornaments of the tank.
On special occasions organised competitions of swimming sprints and bubble blowing are held to commemorate special days in the goldfish community. More intellectual goldfish such as my good self often spend considerable quantities of time observing the goings on of the world outside the tank and pondering the complexities of why we exist as goldfish. On occasions I will watch some television if it is of a fish related nature and personal favourites include ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Shark Tale’. Interaction with other species is limited to being pestered by small humans and eaten by the cat and a sentry rota is organised on an hourly basis to ensure all brethren have ample warning of any impending disturbance – the usual response is mindless panic and few have the good sense that I have to take shelter under the rock pile. In the evening another feeding session occurs and after an evening swim I return to my semi-comatose nocturnal state.
The advantages of being a goldfish are numerous. A sheltered life is lived within the relative security of the fish tank, and a consistent, albeit monotonous, food supply is always provided. There is also close fellowship of brethren within the confines of the tank and great opportunities to build lasting relationships with those who have the mental capacity to remember your name! Spare time is abundant and the many activities on hand serve to stimulate and fulfil both our mental and physical requirements, while spiritual guidance is provided by Songs of Praise every Sunday evening at 6 ‘o clock! For those with capable owners who remember to change the water every 2 months, a long and happy life is usually guaranteed with long living specimens achieving record life spans of up to 70 years.
However, life as a goldfish is not without its disadvantages, but in my opinion these are eclipsed by the more numerous good points. Although rare, fatalities can occur, usually due to cats and small humans who want to play with us, but a more worrying trend has emerged recently in the form of more ‘mature’ humans who think it amusing to swallow us whole! Another bad point of goldfish existence is the limited space of the tank, leading to a number of disadvantages such as a lack of privacy as well as having to swim through and swallow the ablutions of fellow brethren. But for those who can put up with this, the tank fish community is worth its weight in gold!
Historical opinion is varied in response to life as a goldfish. Socrates, writing in the era of the Athenian city state, penned the words “Without friendships no one would choose to live, even if they had all the other good things in life.” Here, he is obviously alluding to the close fellowship of goldfish existence on which both ancient and modern community was modelled. On the other hand other historical authors, in my opinion of a less sound mind than the esteemed Socrates, have judged life as a goldfish to be both monotonous and boring with Pliny the Elder stating it to be “…as exciting as watching paint dry.” This is obviously most untrue.
Modern writers have come to appreciate the merits of the life a goldfish live with the successful Israeli Kibbutz being an emulation of the close community of the goldfish bowl. Fsh. E. Business, writing in his hugely significant work ‘Life as a Goldfish: A Study’ (Harper-Collins ) stated, “Life as a goldfish is something we as humans should seek to pursue on our path to further enlightenment. As the world around us strays further from the sense of inner peace that life as a goldfish brings, we, as a global society, must aim to reach that higher level of existence, merging with a transcendant state of psychic oblivion to achieve the goldfish’s spiritual connection with the greater good.”
In conclusion in can be concluded that life as a goldfish, while not without its disadvantages, is clearly a most beneficial way of life. In a modern society where stress and overwork are major causes of illness and unhappiness, could it be that what this world needs is to merely experience the peaceful life of a goldfish and the many benefits it brings? Surely this is the answer to the problems of our world and that the greater sense of community and common good humans once enjoyed can again be achieved through experiencing life as a goldfish.
NB. For more information on reincarnation as a goldfish, please visit your local Buddhist temple.