A fish out of water



Albert Einstein observed: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” We are all born as originals, but quickly transform to become stereotypical copies. Innate gifts and uncultivated talents habitually pass unnoticed, one’s unlimited capacity to learn thwarted.

In the workplace, performance reviews too often ignore evaluating what employees are really good at and what learning strategies work best for them. Likewise, schools expect lockstep regulated conformity to imposed Great Expectations norms which demand behavioral modification, rather than encouraging educators to look at each and every student as a special challenge, tailoring one-size-fits-all patterns to accommodate individualized uniqueness.

Most children, by nature, are instinctive monkeyshine climbers, resisting gravity, swinging from branches, exploring lofty treetops, resting in slingshot crotches and challenging themselves to steal the most unreachable ripe forbidden fruit, safely out of sight of imaginary enemies yet close to birds. The aggressive mangrove killifish, found in Latin America and the Caribbean, acts contrary to anticipated conventional wisdom, able to alter their physiology to live out of water and climb trees. Instead of breathing through their gills, these odd creatures adapt by breathing (and excreting waste) through their skins. When the water around the mangrove dries up, they climb into tree trunks or hide in rotting logs until the rains return. Once it’s safe, they reactivate their gills, modify their temperament and venture back into the brackish water. Killifish can develop both male and female sexual organs and are able to breed without a mate.

Exocoetidaoe is a family of Piscis Volans known as “flying fish,” endowed with large pectoral fins and liftoff tails that enable them to escape from predators by leaping out of the water and taking flight, gliding a few feet above the surface. If fish, foxes, frogs, lizards, lemurs and squirrels can fly, why can’t humanimals? By reason of imagination, recalling childhood at will, intelligent extraordinary fools, smart idiots and stupid geniuses mindfully learn by heart to think, to feel, to soar, to climb above beyond and ultimately to believe in their own gut instincts and boundless abilities. Coping survivors can successfully achieve the impossible by empowering their indomitable creative spirits in order to simply accomplish what others find improbably difficult.

Dr. Charles Frederickson