Dan Mielke: Goldfish and distorted reality

Published 6:30 am Saturday, August 22, 2020

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In 2004, in the Italian city of Monza, the city council members passed a historic document outlawing the keeping of goldfish in round or convex fishbowls. When asked about the odd legislation, Councilmember Giampietro Mosca defended the ruling by stating, “A fish kept in a bowl has a distorted view of reality…and suffers because of this.”

Does it seem odd to you that a city the size of Rochester would care about the perceived reality of goldfish? Regardless of your view as to whether or not this should be the first piece of legislation in our next town meeting, the story does raise an interesting question: “Do I have a distorted view of reality?”

If you had a distorted view of reality, how would you know? If we passed legislation for the goldfish to have an accurate view of reality, isn’t there much more that would need to be done? You see, if a goldfish were able to see through its tank more clearly, would that really give him an accurate view of reality? Would the goldfish then have enough knowledge in his fish brain to accurately understand the universe?

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What would need to take place for the goldfish to truly understand reality? Would the fish need to go to “school” and if so, what subjects would enable him to understand reality? Would you start teaching chemistry or physics to prove to the fish that he is really wet? Would you need to teach him anatomy or the history of fish-kind in order to give him a context in which to understand his own existence? Would you teach him morality and ethics to care for his young and remind him to only eat other fish out of necessity and never with malice?

What would it take for a fish to understand reality? Come to think of it, what would it take for humanity to understand reality living in our little convex fishbowl in the very large living room of the universe?       

I would submit that all the training in the world in all the topics of the world would not give our little fish brains a proper understanding of reality, and that is one of the wonders of Christianity. The Creator stepped into our little fishbowl to help us understand reality and to tell us of the ocean of eternity.

We have two options. We can stare out of our little fishbowl into the living room and formulate opinions and hypotheses of what it would be like outside our bowl and postulate how we should occupy our time and behave in the meantime, or we could listen to the Maker and understand reality through the Bible that He gave us.