A Shark in The Fish Tank

Some people just don’t play well with others. We all know these types and might even be related to, or work with someone, who knows all the rules of social conduct but bucks the system and opts to be memorable rather than liked in social settings.

While I used to cast judgement on those who interrupt, ignore, or were downright offensive, I’ve come to appreciate these personalities. Like all things in nature, they play an important role in the interconnectedness that we call humanity.

As I age, my perspective has shifted. The rebel has become the trailblazer, the recluse has become the deep thinker, and the attention jockeys have become the world’s entertainers. How boring life would be if everyone followed the rules and acted in the best interest of their fellows?

A few weeks ago, I learned about a practice Japanese fisherman use when collecting fish for the sushi market. The fisherman adds a live shark into the fish tank onboard the boat to keep the fish moving and alert, resulting in a fresher tasting fish. They claim the fish that sit idle in a shark less tank do not taste as fresh as the ones living with sharks.

Fish, like people and animals, will sit idle if given a chance. It is hardwired into all living things to take the path of less resistance when survival is not on the line. The sharks may eat several of the fish in the tank, but the ones that remain are more alive than they were before. Granted in this example either end seems unpleasant as all of them get eaten one way or another.

While the shark in the fish tank interests me; I find myself wondering how they discovered this practice in the first place? I like to imagine some asshole fisherman who had an idea that was poorly communicated and even more poorly executed. Perhaps he just threw a shark in the tank to see what would happen, like a sociopath disregarding life for curiosity. Or perhaps, he was lazy and didn’t remove the shark, that was accidently caught, from the net and figured no one would notice or some other weak justification.

Photo by Leung Kwok Tung Ktleung on Pexels.com

History is beautifully painted with peaks and valleys with sunsets of gold and moonlight nights despite the depravity that sparks the masses to action. We need the people who throw sharks in to fish tanks to keep humanity moving and alert.

In my twenties, I was president on a board for an Alano society. It was all very formal as we followed Robert’s rules and published very official looking reports and budgets. However, no one was really interested in any of that stuff and generally the only people outside of the board that showed up to the meetings had selfish agendas. The discourse was often underdeveloped as a result.

The idea first came to me out of annoyance. Items would get passed with almost zero discussion and the whole process felt disingenuous, so I told a little lie to increase attendance and create interest in the topics that were being covered. With no intention of following through, I made several purposed changes that were wildly against everything the individual groups and committees stood for.

The result was at our next board meeting the room was seething with pissed off people. No one could believe the items on the agenda and were outraged that the board would try to extend its reach to such extent. As the president, I was able to quickly navigate through the mess by asserting the will of the people had been heard and dismissing the bogus items, moving on to more boring but equally important items.

The next board election had enormous turn out. People didn’t mention my little stunt, but it stuck with them that without active participation, things could go sideways very quickly. I was the asshole who threw a shark in the fish tank, and it worked.

My ethics now days are a bit more defined than they were in my twenties and I no longer instigate conflict to solicit participation. But I do take comfort that natural state of individuals has a wide variation and that there isn’t a right or wrong in nature – there’s only survival.

Today, I will remember that when I come across someone that I want to judge or I conflict with, that they too have a place in this world. I don’t need to waste my thoughts on judgement, but rather focus on what value they bring to the whole.

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