18 March 2019


Consider the oyster in its unassuming shell. It has neither the Fibonacci grace of a clam nor the sublime fluting of a scallop. Human prejudices tend towards beauty that does not admit of jaggedness and the rough. Perhaps it is so amongst the animal kingdom. Clams with their curves burrow themselves away from hungry eyes. Scallops lie on the sand, but they have speed to evade their enemies. Oysters grow in clumps, tucked in craggy armor, not giving a damn about passing predators.

Maybe oysters do give a damn about predators. Hard to say, by nature being quiet and sessile creatures. Is it jealousy they feel, abed and watching clams dig in and scallops gambol about the sea floor? This is a topic for serious investigation. Imagine a curious heart immersing itself in an estuarine embrace to visit among the oysters. Filter the water. Share salt with strangers for whom rapprochement begets gratitude. Tuck into bed and dream with them in the interstices of the tides. Patience receives its reward when the shells open. They may be amenable to sharing secrets once their bellies are full.

Secrets. Yes, this is it. Humble exteriors holding secrets. This helps explain the clumps, the ragged shells, the propensity for mud. Appearances deceive throughout all kingdoms, human and animal. The phrase “Do not judge a book by its cover” has many variants among the languages of earth. Yet humans often fall for the notion that virtue and worth are arbitrated by prettiness, shininess, and affluence. Judged by those characteristics alone oysters would seem to have no chance at becoming a regular foodstuff for Homo sapiens. Jonathan Swift wrote, in his book Polite Conversation, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”. Gazing upon inelegant shells strewn amongst the mud of the tide line, hard labor is not required of the imagination to understand the genesis of Mr. Swift’s epigram.

But was it boldness that drove the choice? Or was it an overarching hunger? Hunger was likely the prime directive. When the belly scrapes the backbone, who knows what one will do to put space between those two. That includes pulling unlikely manna from the muck. There is nourishment there, and beauty. These things are known by hunger when it exerts itself to open the tightly closed shells, freeing that which lies within. When that hunger transcends survival, the soul can then turn to boldness. It finds things hidden in the mud with secrets to be revealed and shared. Be bold. Shuck the oysters of the self. Drink the liquor, find the pearls, and spread them all before the light.

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"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...