Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Parable of the Goldfish, a Tale of Trust

A friend of mine that I used to be in frequent contact with a couple years ago sent me an email last night after reading some of the recent posts on my blog. I couldn't pass up the chance so I asked him for permission to post it here. It's a true story.

"Perhaps all it means is that everyone and everything is your teacher, as you are a teacher to all things.

Way back when we first started writing a bit to each other I told you about a cattle trough we have on our ranch, and the goldfish in it. I told you how I scraped the algae on the side of the tank with my hand and how they'd swim over to it to feast on the algae. Several months ago a raccoon or maybe a crane got all but two of them, and for all this time those two lost all their training and would stay at the center of the through, never coming over to the scraped off algae. But I persisted, every day scraping it again, until finally they have become tame again.

I suppose this is no big deal, other than it illustrates how trust can be lost, and with patience, regained. Although it seems to me that with humans it's more common that trust is never regained. Perhaps with so many people around, people figure there's always another."

I responded with this:

"Once trust is lost with someone, it is very difficult to find that trust again. I know this through experiencing someone's loss of trust in me. ... I won't go into details about this, but through the loss of this trust in me, I learned that trust is not to be taken lightly."


Don said...

There is a good analogy between humanity and a container of gas molecules. We all circulate around, occasionally forming a bond with someone. The bond may be weak or strong, thus the relationship may last for a short period, or for a long time. If we separate from someone, they are not permanently alienated from us forever; they may circulate back, but as with two gas molecules, the chances may be very low.

Sophia and I separated a couple of years ago, but she saw a post I made in usenet and reestablished a rapport, for which I am grateful.

Sophia said...

That's a wonderful analogy... They're always there, somewhere.

I guess every once in a while there's a person or two worth reconnecting with. :)

Don said...

Are you still so into Wuthering Heights? At one point you inspired me to check out its plot, and like many novels it seemed quite complicated.

The two goldfish are still fine, just staying still, existing, getting older, no particular goals in life, perhaps we could learn from them?

Sophia said...

Yes, it's been a while since I've read it, though, so the details of the plot have mostly escaped me, but the essence of the novel is still with me. It is one of my favorites, if not THE favorite.

I had made some attempts to get back into reading the classics. I have no interest in modern fiction. But I have found I can't stay focused enough to stick with them, as I'm so drawn to books on spirituality now. I had started Jane Austen's Persuasion a couple months ago, but didn't get very far before looking into other books. Currently I'm reading a book on the Kabbalah. Next I plan on reading another book I bought on spiritual wisdom. I have lots of books on my shelves that I'll never have time to read.

If you ever wish to read Wuthering Heights, you can read it online. But if you don't like sitting behind the computer monitor for long periods of time, I recommend buying a copy.

Do you have names for these goldfish? I had a favorite goldfish when I was a child. I had named it "Angel". Perhaps I named it that because it's beautiful hind fin reminded me of angels' wings. When it died, I buried it in the front yard. Not too long before that I read _Where the Red Fern Grows_, and I became excited to see a plant of some sort sprouting where I had buried Angel.

The thing about goldfish is, there's a whole world outside that bowl. Maybe we're goldfish inside a bowl. Wonder what's out there?

Don said...

Being on the web has almost completely replaced reading books for me. I told this to one person and they said, "You know, if you don't read books you'll forget how to read." This was someone who has little exposure to the web.

I almost never name things. If I had a child, s/he would be called "hey, you."

I think that's a good analogy, we're all like goldfish, wondering what's out there. It's nice when some one tells you "here's how it is" that you can always go back to that Shakespeare line "there are more things in heaven and earth..." Although if someone tells me "1 + 1 = 2" it would be hard to find exception with that, except in some mystical sense.

Sophia said...

The Internet has ruined me. I don't read books very much because I'm using the Internet instead. And I have a hard time reading one web site at a time because there are so many websites out there to choose from that it becomes overwhelming.

Don said...

I have a friend (actually, he's not much of one anymore, we rarely communicate, and communication and relationships are synonymous) who has almost nothing to do with the web. He asks me if I've read this book or that book, I haven't, too much web material to read. He gave me a book on Feynman and it just sits on the shelf, never read. I mean, if I need to know something I can specifically find what I want without digging through a book.

When I was little I wished for some type of magic box that I could ask questions of and it would give answers. We have it now in the web. At least an early version of the magic box, anyway. And someday, who knows - a true Godlike box????

Sophia said...

I hate to see communication slow down in relationships, but lately I've been trying to redefine what "friend" means to me. I used to think that to be a friend or to have a friend, we had to be in constant contact. But now, a "friend" is someone who will be there when I call on them, even if we don't talk for months.

The magic box, eh? Something tells me at one time you invested in the magic eight ball. :)

I just tried it, but didn't like the answer it gave me until I saw the deeper meaning. I just wanted to test it out, so I asked, "Can I learn the Kabbalah?" It responded with, "No way!" I didn't like that, but then it dawned on me that no one can completely learn the Kabbalah, for there is always something new to learn.

Feynman? Over my head! I'll leave that to you NASA guys.

Don said...

The mistake I made with my "friend" was that I kept telling myself he was a friend and ignoring the feedback coming back from him. Making assumptions gets one in trouble in this department.

I did have a magic 8 ball when I grew up, a real one. It only differs from the web in a couple of respects: it's simpler, and it gives random answers, not answers that at least someone somewhere has made some small attempt to be sure they're true, usually anyway.

The Kabbalah sounds like the Global Brain, if there's always something there to learn there. Of course, Cantor taught us that you can have infinities within infinity.

Feynman was a physicist, an impish sort of guy, a troublemaker, hated simplistic solutions for complex problems especially where people have an agenda. He liked to play the bongos, liked organge juice, and Tannu Tuva. His spirit lives on.

Sophia said...

Do you mean like misunderstanding signals he was sending regarding his disinterest in the continuance of the friendship? A lot of people can miss this clues, probably because we want everyone to like us. If someone didn't like me, my feelings were hurt. But one of the things I've learned is that not everyone is going to like me. I try not to let it bother me now. Luckily I haven't ran into too many people that don't like me.

Don said...

It was like "I've known him since first grade. He will be my best friend for life. But he doesn't treat me well and with respect. What's wrong?" And I guess I was so blinded to all this that it went on for many years, until it finally sunk in that he didn't have much respect for me. Also, I tended to not stand up for myself well and let him and others walk on me, and then felt bad afterward. I guess you can call it an awakening rather late in life. What can trap me in this is if the person is worthwhile a lot of the time, but does get his/her zingers in every time I give them an opportunity. I liken it to facing off a rattlesnake, and it's there just waiting to strike if you give it any opening.

The danger of coming out of a wimpy way of dealing with people to an assertive one is that you can go overboard and react back too forcefully.

Maybe most people learn all this much younger than I have, but better late than never, I suppose.

Don said...

I guess what all this means is that one learns from all you experience in life. What I've written here was a long, nearly life-time lesson. I don't see how one can do any better than to learn from all they experience rather than seek out a single person to learn from. You seem to be learning that as time goes on. But don't go entirely by me, certainly seek out other views on the subject. :-)

Don said...

End of soul dump.

Sophia said...

You start to worry when there is no response for a while, don't you. :) (Don't be embarrassed that I noticed.)

One is never too old to learn. Even when I was 26 I was embarrassed to be going out seeking a mentor. I thought I was too old to be doing that. But I won't be embarrassed about it anymore.

I think one of the signs of wisdom is having the ability to treat experiences in life as lessons. Instead of worrying over and over again, "Oh, why does this have to happen to me??" it is better to say, "Let this experience teach me."

Don said...

Oh, I don't worry , really. I mean, it's not like I say to myself "THEY'RE LYING BY THEIR TERMINAL, DEAD! I NEED TO DIAL 911 AND REPORT IT!!!!!" It's just my form. If the person never answers back, I figure they've blended back into the rest of the gas, as so many have before, and you wait for the next molecule to come bump into you, as they themselves may someday also come back, but you never know, and it's actually a bit reassuring that Life has such unpredictability in it, rather than the smug determinism you encounter from people so much.

"I think one of the signs of wisdom is having the ability to treat experiences in life as lessons. Instead of worrying over and over again, "Oh, why does this have to happen to me??" it is better to say, "Let this experience teach me.""

yeah, again and again, maybewe should chip it intogranite angside the "Ye shall now thetruth, and the truth shall make ye free" slogan at UT-Austin

Don said...

(I didn't get to proof the final part of that last post, sorry).

Thinking here a bit, since it was worthy of comment from you, yes, I do start to worry when there's not a response from people. I should be better about that, either just let people go or at least wait a while before double-checking. Actually, it's all part of the communication "game", a game trillions of times more complicated than chess, which we are all locked-in to our entire lives, no exemptions from it. Ever listen to that song by Pink Floyd I think it is, "Keep Talking", which starts out with Hawking's mechanical voice, how for millions of years we were no better than the animals, and then we learned to talk. Then talk globally. Then interstellarly????

Don said...


Don said...

You haven't written back yet. You've got me worried.

It really is a turn-off, isn't it, when people start writing out of turn, violating the game rule of tit-for-tat. I do need to work on that.

Sophia said...

Intergalactically.... now you've expanded beyond the global brain concept. The universal mind!

I sense some insecurities, possibly fear of rejection in your last few comments. It's easy for me to detect this because I've experienced something like it before.

I've been away from my computer a lot today. Never fear, Sophia's here (for you)! :)

Don said...

Going for a weekend getaway. Wnen I get back, I want to talk more about me and my compulsive repetitive writing under certain circumstances. It's surface again, and not just here. Have a nice weekend!

Sophia said...

Tell me all about your trip when you get back.

Don't feel like you have to explain yourself to me, but if you want to talk about it, I'm here.

Don said...

I guess I write repetitively when I am brimming with things to say, and also when I get a bit angry at someone. You know, all these internet interactions have an equivalent in face to face conversation. Ie, someone having an argument with someone often bombards the other with their feelings giving no time for the other person to respond. I am doing my best here lately to not get angry at people for it's just not done nowadays, and if it is it results in a very bad situation.

We went to San Antonio, a place called Dave and Buster's. Restaurant and gambling. Good food, but casinos are getting to me. I don't know what it is, but I want what I do to have some usefulness in the Universe. Sticking tokens in a slot machine to me is like digging a hole and filling it back in.

Actually am just kind of living minute to minute, like many philosophies tell you too.

Sophia said...

When I hadn't respond by the time you came back here to check for a response, you assumed I was ignoring you.

I am not criticizing you, it's just that we can see ourselves in others sometimes. :)

I don't like casinos, either. We went to Las Vegas last summer; I had never been there before. The moment I walked into the casino/hotel I felt funny. It's hard to explain, but it wasn't a good feeling. I don't know why this is, but now that I'm thinking about it I wonder if it could be bad energies that people put off when they lose.

Don said...

My feeling when entering a casino is that they're such an artificial world. I'm used to this ranch where you have trees and cows grass and rivers, not flashing lights and weird sounds and people doing an essentially useless exercise, putting coins in boxes. My future wife and I went to Vegas about a year and a half ago and this odd thought came to my mind - if advanced civilizations have arisen around the Universe have any of them reached this height, outdoor electronic billboards, all the lights, etc.

Sophia said...

I've had similar thoughts. But it occurred to me once that to some (possible) alien civilizations, our technologically advanced world might seem quite ancient compared to their way of life. Maybe we haven't even imagined yet what they have accomplished.

Don said...

I have this feeling that we are supremely advanced and getting more so all the time, but the irony is that we don't recognize it and appreciate it. Why? Because it's all commonplace to us. It's all we know. And none of us can appreciate the whole Earth, we just concentrate on our little section of it. A rising tide raises all boats - we all wind up at the same higher level. And human relationships don't change as we rise. The availability of communicating with others increases, but at the heart of it all we still all deal with people in the same manner.