Dance, Joan, dance!

Time ago, with my grudging consent, my son instituted an aquarium. There are two fish in it. One is silver and red and has a traditional form, with the two colors arranged in highly decorative patches. The other one is coal black with large, silky fins and protruding glassy eyes. I was told that they are a female and a male of the same species. It looks improbable but it is probably true. I am old enough to know that anything conceivable is possible, no matter how strange it appears.

The fish are often hungry. My son once promised to tend them and keep them happy forever but that was long ago and, besides, forever is a surprisingly short stretch of time.

When the fish are hungry, they swim in front of the front glass wall. The back wall is covered by an underwater scenery painted on a sheet of paper but it never fooled them, not even once. They touch the front wall with their mouths and, remaining perpendicular, swim feverishly up and down and right and left and along both diagonals in a kind of random dance. They hope that sooner or later something will happen and food will materialize from Beyond the Wall.

When I pass by, the frenzy of their dance doubles and they start munching in anticipation on empty water. It is as though they were desperately trying to communicate with me and, in effect, they do for I understand what they want and even that they want it so much they can't think about anything else. It is really a mystery. I had to learn my mother's tongue, yet I understand fish without learning!

I am sure the fish talk among themselves. This is what they say:

Joan: Tony, please! Can't you dance with just a bit more enthusiasm? You know that The Beyond concedes nothing for free. We must have Faith and work hard.

Tony: Oh, come on, we dance since ages and nothing happens. Maybe there is no Beyond. I mean, not a real one. Maybe what we see is just an illusion of our minds. After all, it feels smooth and impenetrable and as hard as a stone. How could anything exist and move in there?

Joan: Well, we see shadows move in there occasionally, don't we? And whenever that happens, we feel strange vibrations which just can't come from Within, right? And if we dance hard enough and long enough, food descends upon us from the Beyond and we eat it. These are the facts. This is how the World is made, and you know it. You know I am right!

Tony (sarcastic): Wow, Joan, compliments! That was quite a talk!

Joan (snapping): Just keep dancing, would you!

Tony (mumbling to himself): Without water, one can't even breathe there.

Tony (after a stretch of hard dancing): What if this time nothing happens and we starve to death while dancing. Maybe we should lay down in front of that fake scenery over there and spare our forces.

Joan: Just have Faith! I am sure that He Who Swims Beyond will not let us die for He is good and mighty and misericordious.

Tony: If He is so good and all, why can't He give us our food rightaway and spare us all this foolish dancing? Sometimes I hate Him!

Joan: Shhhh! Are you crazy to talk like that! He hears everything!

Joan (after a while, hesitantly): You know, a few times we did receive food without dancing. There were times when it happened quite often. Maybe we have failed a test. Maybe we are being punished for our sins.

Tony (pretending puzzlement): Which sins? I got no sins.

Joan: Don't be presumptuous. Everybody got sins. We got our instincts to follow so, I guess, it would be a sin not to have sins.

Tony (exuberant): I buy that! Sounds like Catch 22, though, doesn't it?

Joan (annoyed): So what if it does? Just keep moving those fins of yours, would you! They are as black as your soul!

Tony (suddenly dancing like hell): I felt the Vibration! Look, there is the Shadow! Dance, Joan, dance!

Joan: I do, I do! Look up, Tony, I was right. The food is falling down from the skies. I am so glad and grateful! Considering all those blasphemies of yours, I was afraid we would go hungry today. I bet it was a close call.

Tony: Well, Ok, Ok. If you don't mind, I shall eat now and pray later.

Author's note: What strikes me in this dialog is that the Model of the World Joan and Tony have built up, grotesque as it looks, is quite functional. It gives a meaning to a lot of things. It commands a lot of hard work but it also keeps a body lean and healthy and, above all, sane of mind. And it allows one to make useful practical predictions.

What more can one want from a model?

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