I live in a fish bowl. Moscow is a small town. The population signs include the number of students at the UI, and most of them have left town for the holidays. What remains are the locals, and their children that have returned for a few days. I went to a holiday dance a few weeks ago. The only folks I did not know or know of were 1/2 my age or less. The students had not left town yet. I know many circles of people. Circles from my work. Circles from Jim’s work. Circles from raising children here. Circles from church. Circles of the outdoor variety of worship. Circles of runners, and swimmers, and bikers, and rafters, and skiers. Circles from our local health care services. Circles of family. Circles of girlfriends I have nurtured over time. Circles of boys surrounding us, protecting us as we dance. We all live in this fish bowl. We swim in circles in a fishbowl, and our circles overlap.
Fishbowls are usually made of glass. This doesn’t fool the fish into thinking it’s space is any bigger. It allows spectators to look in. When I began writing a blog, first Jim’s, and now this one, I entered a new circle, a new fishbowl. This circle is bigger than Moscow. My far away family and friends read it. Other widows read it. I have someone who is in prison who subscribes, and other writers. Folks searching for emerald earrings, or kids doing handstands (yikes!) happen upon it. Blogs (at least these 2) are public domain. It doesn’t take a degree in computer programming to find it, on-line search a name or 2, and figure out who I am. This is a new kind of fishbowl. Because I don’t know exactly where the glass sides are, I am cautious, I live by some self-imposed rules. I take the liberty of referring to “a friend” that may actually be a conglomerate of people, or refer to “folks” when it may have been just a lone person. With the exception of my children, or organizations that already have an on-line presence, I don’t use names. I try very hard to work under a rule of “anonymity”. While the human condition may be universal, I don’t want anyone to feel singled out as an individual.
Folks like to gaze into fishbowls. They are meditative, relaxing. But looking into a fishbowl does not magically give us gills, anymore than the fish inside can grow language to tell us of their experience. It is mutual observation. Writing of my experiences for the public domain is not a dialogue. It is a monologue, and a guarded one at that. It is not a private diary, it is not my dream journal, and I pick and choose very carefully what I am willing to say…as my audience is both known and unknown. It does not allow me to know what is going on in the hearts and minds and lives of my readers, and with the exception of a small glimpse, does not really allow anyone else to know the same of me. It is not a back and forth email exchange, a chat, a phone call, or a conversation over a glass of wine. It is simply observation, meditation, and empathy for a fish.
I live in a fishbowl. It is safe, I am well fed, and protected from the elements. I am not a goldfish. I don’t have gills, I don’t have scales, and as much as I love to swim, I really like to breathe while doing so. People look in, and I can see out. I hear the river in the distance. It is deep, it is wide, there are rocks to hide behind, and it is moving fast. I’d be glad to tell you about it. In a dialogue.