The Character in the Sharkskin Suit

Intriguing, isn’t it, how what we admire in one we might fear in another; how sometimes a single characteristic becomes so entwined with our perception of the whole being that we are unable (or at least unwilling) to see the subject except through that distinctive illustration from a photo

Take the shark, for example. We anthropomorphize its curved, elegant mouth and its very pointy dental array as a wicked grin because they form so ironically (we think) bloodless a ‘smile’ for an ideally designed killing machine, and subsequently we are content to identify those people whom we find wicked, bloodless, or murderous as Sharks. Never mind that the shark itself is simply being what it is naturally meant to be and doing what it is created to do. Never mind that, often enough, the person we are happy to affiliate with that same stereotyped vision may also be doing what s/he is naturally inclined, expected, and/or paid to do. If the person in question is good at carrying out dispassionate or relentless action, we’re likely to find a convenient metaphor in the illustration

I have long thought, myself, that the mere mention of a character as being dressed in a sharkskin ensemble gave him an air of sangfroid that I suppose must have been similarly associated with the archetype of the coolly relentless shark. I, too, am apparently guilty of stereotyping the creature, and very likely in turn, the person. So it is: we are always looking for shorthand ways to describe and understand those around painting from a photo

But I would hope that I can also remain cognizant of those positive and laudable qualities that might also be anthropomorphically applied to a shark, and credit similar ones to my fellow bipedal creatures as well: swiftness, strength, tenacity, fearlessness, and a driving desire to move forward at all times. These are characteristics to which I can only aspire for the most part, never mind being as handsome and sleek as a shark can be in appearance. While I doubt anyone will tend to equate me with the supposedly shark-like attributes of cruel indifference or cold-bloodedness, perhaps I would do well to pursue association with those better ones and see if I can’t be identified with such admirable aspirations after all.