Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Luca Brasi swims with the fishes

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I'm going to tell you a story about a fish pond. I told this tale yesterday to a friend of mine as we sat looking at koi in a beautiful sculpture park, and I thought I'd share it with you. For all that I've seen, this little moment has been one of my life's greatest lessons.

My best friend from college has just about the most cliche picture perfect life you can have. He married his childhood sweetheart, has two beautiful children, works for the NFL in a job he loves and has won multiple emmy and grammy awards for, and he is paid very well. He lives in a beautiful house in the woods, with a picture perfect backyard complete with a vegetable garden, a fire pit, a hammock and a koi pond.

I went to visit and stay with his family one weekend, to hang with an old friend, to eat his wife's amazing cooking, to relax, and generally sit around and wonder why his life looks like Norman Rockwell painted it, while mine is a bit closer to an Edvard Munch.

At the time I was there, they were having insect problems in the garden, and had planted a sack of praying mantis eggs to counteract it. Amazing thing, the praying mantis, and this particular weekend there were hundreds of them stalking the backyard, most of them very small and newly hatched, but there were a variety of sizes, and it was mesmerizing to watch them.

So early one morning, I'm the first one up - I make a pot of coffee, pour myself a cup, and wander outside to sit and have a smoke. Breakfast of champions, caffeine and nicotine. It's so quiet out there, and so calmly noisy at the same time - it's early, and all the sounds of the forest waking up around me are there, but I'm the only human moving for miles. To a city kid, it's as peaceful and beautiful as it gets.

I make my way over to the koi pond and sit down to enjoy my coffee and watch the fish. As I settle in, a little praying mantis hops up on one of the rocks surrounding the pond, and looks up at me. Have you ever hung out with a praying mantis? I have, and it was one of the most amazing moments I'd ever experienced.

He was aware of me. We looked at each other. We spent the next five minutes gazing at the pond, and occasionally looking back at each other. I would swear he was taking a smoke break with me - just the two of us, the rest of the world only beginning to wake up, and we sat together in silence like old friends.

When he finished his smoke, and I mine, he looked at me one more time, reared back and leaped out onto the pond. My immediate thought was, "hey! don't do that! (Can praying mantii swim?) Don't leave now, we were having a nice time!"
But there he stood, on the surface of the water, calmly floating and gently rocking as the fish swam below him. It hadn't occurred to me that he could do that. "Pretty cool," I thought, and I sat back to watch some more.

Within a few seconds, a koi swam directly below him, passing him by high in the water, almost grazing him as he passed. The koi passed, turned around, and headed right back in the same direction. "Now he wants to hang out with us," I thought. And as he headed back towards the insect, he raised his head just barely up out of the water, and in one smooth, silent, graceful and beautifully choreographed motion - he swallowed my friend whole and dove back beneath the surface.

And that was it. My friend was gone. There had been no sound, no drama, no screaming and wailing, no sirens and no weeping. No one mourned, no one would notify the family, no one was even aware that something amazing and stunningly beautiful had just taken place, I was its only witness. A creature fed, a life taken, a morning come and on its way to gone, the world doing its thing.

That is all there is, my friends. There is no good and evil. Lives come and go, people wind up living a dream or they wind up as crackheads living behind a dumpster in the projects, and the world takes no notice. Some make wise choices and some bad, some improve their lot, some worsen it, and the world takes no notice. We live. We die. Sometimes we kill, sometimes we don't.

And the world takes no notice. And yet, somehow, it keeps turning.

You do what you can while you're here, because it helps you to live with yourself.

But if you think your view or your judgment of it all is any wiser or more important than the moment's thought that drove that little insect out onto the koi pond, then you are a fool.


Blogger Ironman said...

That was excellent.

When are you coming out West for some drinks?


6:15 AM  
Anonymous George said...

Nice post, but sadly the plural of mantis is 'mantises', or 'mantes' if you want to be pretentious.

(I wonder why I don't have a girlfriend.)

3:54 PM  
Anonymous RCG Tiburon said...

Now I never have to articulate that feeling I get when I stand in the sunlight coming through the trees.

2:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn I love your writing.
Beth Carter

10:29 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home