The Goldfish

photo by Rabun Warna -
photo by Rabun Warna –

I have a goldfish at home. I wish could say it was for my kids – to teach them about responsibility and life and death. But all of that would be a lie. It’s for me. I dragged it into my life, because I wanted a goldfish.

I’m not even certain what need or want it fills. It’s comforting to watch him/her swim around. It’s pleasant to have a moment of connection through the plastic as we see each other when the rest of the family is asleep. But all this occurs at the expense of whatever liberty and happiness that fish might otherwise have were it not in our flat.

I’m not exactly sure what the natural habitat of the goldfish is – I’ve never see one in the wild. I suspect it’s not “the brief space between a fake plant and a miniature bridge, in an 8 litre plastic tank, on a kitchen bench, in North London.”

The only other place I’ve seen them is in pet shops and toilet bowls, but I don’t think either of those are closer to the natural state.

I have no concept of its happiness or health, concerns or ambitions – and I’m not sure that he/she does either.

Irrespective of what the fish feels, I dragged it into my orbit, to satisfy my needs. Like a drowning swimmer who has latched on to another person and won’t let go, I have bound our fates together and given the other no choice in the matter.

I know this sounds morbid, but it’s not. If it’s horrible, then it’s on a scale which is microscopic enough to not cause much harm to the world (except to the fish).

But it did make me think that we can do the same with people. That we can get needy, start thrashing in the water and become a peril to those within arms reach. That we can drag people into our obit and forcibly bind their fates to ours.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t reach out when we genuinely need help. That’s one of the main advantages of community, society and family. Perhaps we should just avoid trying to have too many goldfish.