Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Petrified Jellyfish

Petrified Jellyfish: a contradiction in terms.

You can find these by the beach near Campeche. When you collect them they are usually quite damp, and they take a couple of weeks to dry out, getting lighter in colour and weight as this happens. They are quite brittle when damp, but as they dry become less easy to break.

I recall as a boy a holiday in Denmark at a beach on Jutland. I remember somehow catching Jellyfish and taking them out of the water , and how they tore in my hands when I did that. I wince with a David Lynchean sense of the pain they might have suffered as their bodies ripped apart: I feel guilt about it now, though I wonder really if jellyfish can feel pain any more than plants can: I am probably being very sentimental.

As a child I sometimes did things merely to experience the moral sentiments that arose as a result of the transgression. I once stole a chocolate bar from a small shop on Seafield Road, Aberdeen, because I wondered what the sensation of guilt would be, and how I would tolerate this. I was cruel to other children too, simply because I might be.

All this serves to illustrate that moral feelings are learnt and not inherent, since I did not grow up in a household or society that accepted theft or cruelty.

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