October 20, 2003

The Monkey vs the Salmon vs the World

There’s nothing here but quiet.

And sorry about that. Things have been crazy here the last week. All the Big Wigs left for Cape Hatteras last Saturday, putting us Small Wigs in charge of the store for the week. Everything went smoothly and they’re back now and we’re all hunky-dorrey.

And take salmon for instance. Could this fish be any stupider? I mean, it tries to kill itself by swimming upstream. It spends its entire life happy to occupy the lower pools and nibble the toes of children, but then BAM something serious pops in its cortex, something that dates back to the earliest days of evolutionary advantage, and all of a sudden all it wants to do is FIGHT. The water wants to push it down but the salmon wants to fight up. The salmon wants to spawn and it can’t spawn here. The salmon MUST SPAWN and it MUST SPAWN THERE.

And so it all jumps out of the water and stuff, and man builds dams to keep the salmon from spawning but the salmon outsmarts man and builds ladders. And man takes off his hat and scratches his head as he watches the salmon pound away with their tiny fish hammers. And the salmon builds a ladder and the man thinks to himself that he would never have thought of that. “Who would have thought that fish would not only be inclined to use ladders, but to construct them out of wood beams and concrete?” Man would never have thought of this, because man has legs and feet and these tools constrain his thinking, and he thinks what good would be a ladder without legs and feet?

And so the salmon build themselves a ladder to swim upstream, and yet they don’t even swim upstream. They don’t swim and instead leap far out of the water and into the greedy paws of grizzlies. The grizzly is delighted by this exemplary customer service but it is sad and tragic for the salmon. Stay put, dear salmon! Bound not into the ursine clutches! But the salmon doesn’t listen. The salmon can’t listen because millions of years of research and development in the piscine field reveals that leaping upstream to spawn has a greater evolutionary advantage than heeding the warnings of monkeys.

Tricky little monkeys. The monkey chatters in bemusement at the salmon’s cruel fate. So much wasted effort! What could possibly be so desirous at the head of the stream to make the salmon foolishly risk life? Why not spawn elsewhere? Spawn downstream! Spawn right where you are! Spawn under a shimmering disco ball moon!

But the monkey doesn’t realize something, and he doesn’t realize it because he’s so busy chiding the salmon. He doesn’t realize it because he is too deeply engaged in chattering away at himself, in impressing himself with his own intellectual prowess. His ears plug up with the cheap gin of his own cheap thoughts and he stumbles around deaf of ear and blind of mind. Intoxicated he can’t see that he and the salmon share similar fates. The only difference being that the monkey is the captain of his fate, and whether or not he’s going to be the incoherent stumbledrunk captain is a choice completely within his means.

At least the salmon has a glorious and efficient design for making way upstream. The effort is great indeed, but the result is arguably teleological. A monkey thrashing his way upstream just looks ridiculous. Watch as he gasps for air in the falls! Look at him flail his silly sodden limbs! You may have been meant for something, monkey. You may have been meant to climb down from the trees and paddle around that pool, but fighting your way against the current will only dash your brittle body against the rocks.

You can pick your fights, dear monkey, but you can’t fight everything so you must pick them well. Fighter monkeys will swim against a riptide with all their might, but that only makes sure they’re dead tired when they get swept out to sea. Thinker monkeys swim across a riptide until they reach an inflow that nudges them back to shore.

As in salmon, as in monkeys, as in life, you need to know when to fight and when to think. And right now we’re surrendering the fight for a moment of thought.

Not to bring up old jokes but all this talk of monkey’s and spawning makes me think.
1) Is this a strange analogy of you and your coworkers vs. the estabilishment.
2) Has “Monkey-Guy” finally found “Monkey-Girl” to make “monkey loving”? (Inside joke involving a particular posting in RipSaw)