Sometimes something gets stuck in my head and the only way to get it unstuck is to get the idea stuck in someone else’s head. A few weeks ago I came across something on the news having to do with a Canadian paleontologist sitting on a pebbled beach in Quebec. His life’s work revolved around finding the place where fish first walked from the sea—the very fact that he was interested in finding out where they first walked seems to imply that they (fish) have walked on more than one occasion.
I know some of you are thinking, ‘And your point in writing to us about this is…”.
The television spot went on with the fellow concluding that the interesting thing is not that fish walked—which I would have found sufficiently interesting—epochs later; yada yada yada—but that without them having walked none of us would be here. It was alchemy in paleontology and the reporter was his Rapunzel.
What troubles me about this is he and his amanuensis, the reporter, with her eyes wide shut, somehow managed to create a dialogue around this notion as though it (the meaning of life) actually happened the way this fellow said it did. Her interview was like watching two left-handed men learning to dance backward without either one knowing the woman’s part.
The voices in my head started screaming epitaphs at me. The paleontologist’s mind tacked intuitively and lurched from idea to idea untouched by the clammy hand of logic. His premise made as much sense to me as having an oboe player in a punk rock band, yet the erstwhile reporter, with her sang-froid composure, uttered nothing more than ‘uh-huh’ and looked as though she was watching time bend as he explained the wonders of the universe to her with his do-re-mi recitation of the facts.
Some people in front of a camera have the innate ability to insult our intelligence with boredom and futility. His perfervid idea was stranded on the edge of reality and worked about as well as a poorly used preposition at the end of a sentence. She listened and nodded and stared into the looking glass. She never questioned whether the compass of his intellectual qualifications may have been missing its needle.
Therein lays the rub. Simply saying something aphoristically on television does not make it true. What was intended as an ephemeral interview now exists for the folly of all of us. The man is guilty of sharing his ideas without having a hall pass to do so, but then again, are not we all.
Maybe that is how mermaids came to be.