Death & Jellyfish

Continuing with parts of the last two days’ topics, I was reminded while writing those posts not only of the vastly varied wonders of my wanderings this past summer but also of the way that they all tend to reinforce my natural inclination to fall into pensive abstraction, thinking of how I fit into this gargantuan scheme of things. Abstractions of all kinds are so prevalent in nature as it is…the marvelous patterns and textures, repetitions and variations everywhere lending themselves to a sort of meditation that, for me, affords space for deep rumination on the grand existential questions as well as the minute beauties within them.

While my species has tremendous tendencies to be wasteful, it seems to me that nature wastes nothing, unless you count the prodigious extravagance of miraculous beauty that often seems to serve no special adaptive or functional purpose. For instance, a live jellyfish undulating through the sea has, simultaneously, the remarkable power of its sting to stun or kill much larger and stronger creatures, but is so delicate and ethereal in appearance that one could easily imagine it a mere soap-bubble, shattered by the slightest atom of touch or breath. A dead jellyfish, washed ashore, may well retain something of that bubble disguise until it has begun to desiccate, and still have some mysterious touch-me-not danger to it; a dead jelly in the kitchen may become food for yet other creatures, chefs and diners who know something beyond its tissue-thin and vaporous appearance. But until it is cooked to the point of becoming somewhat opaque, it also retains an astonishing, magical interior that’s visible through its transparent and translucent outer layers, a living artwork of curlicues and tangled tendrils, pulsing, fluttering threads and striae of rich, delicate color.

What all of this makes me think is that if I, too, am a work of nature, then perhaps I may allow myself to harbor the ambitious hope of being transcendent in the same simple, elegant ways that other creatures are. If I am not spectacular in life, going about my business in this little part of the universe with undistinguished and plodding ways, then at least I will dream of what I can eventually become in death. As I disintegrate and return to the slight molecules of my primeval parts, I would like to think I can renew some other portion of the natural order, feed new beauty with my humble dust. If I can go to my last sleep with this possibility in my heart, I will go willingly, and gladly ready to fade myself to nothingness; what follows will surely be a new kind of joy. It’s the nature of things.Photomontage: Natural Abstractions

5 thoughts on “Death & Jellyfish

  1. For a while I lived in far South Texas on the coast – I think every jellyfish in the world wintered there. Quite a sight to see all those bobbing around by the piers and docks. Such odd fragile beauty. You caught their essence perfectly in this post.

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