The Fishbowl Experiments

At the café where I go and get my coffee every morning, I noticed a fishbowl on the counter. There was a slow and lugubrious singular fish floating around inside. As I waited for my coffee, I observed the fish and found profound relaxation in my observation.

The fish was not doing anything. It was just floating around. Fully present. Occasionally moving from one part of the fishbowl to another. It seemed to be living the kind of life I wanted to live.

On my way home from the café I decided to do my own fishbowl experiments. I would buy a fishbowl and some plants, grass, pebbles and a bench to put inside of it. I would set up a bed in case I decided to sleep in it. Then I would try and spend more of my time inside of it.

Unfortunately, I had the weight of obligations which are often synonymous with adult, financially independent life. I had to work. I had to take care of certain things. I had to strive to create a better and more authentic life for myself. This would prevent me from spending as much time in the fish bowl as I would like, I initially thought.

Once I received everything from Amazon, I set the fishbowl up in my backyard. This would allow me to have privacy and be in nature. There are many tree, plants and other living species to observe in my backyard.

The first experiment I did, I spent half of my Saturday afternoon in the fishbowl. It was a cool, spring afternoon, so I did not have to deal with the cold. I used a ladder to get in and out of the fishbowl, but once in it I would stay in it until the duration of the experiment ended. I would record results in the fishbowl notebook. That afternoon I spent three hours in the fishbowl and loved every minute of it.

I thought of the fish and how relaxed it was and tried to emulate that state for myself. I sat on the bench and observed everything around me. Occasionally I got up and walked to various parts of the fishbowl. I would stop and watch from there.

The fish did not have any books or music. It did not have a smartphone. So why should I? That would be cheating. I wanted to see if I could find complete satisfaction and happiness in my life by just being. Being just like the fish, for extended periods of time.

The second experiment I did I stayed in the fishbowl for an entire Saturday. My wife brought me food and water and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed being in there. No one I had to talk to. No one I had to be. Nothing I had to do. I was free of all that while in the fishbowl. Instead, I could just watch and listen. I could just observe and experience life moving around inside and outside of myself. I was free to be. Free from other people’s expectations. It was great.

I enjoyed it so much that I decided to spend an entire weekend in the fishbowl. My wife was ok with it since she wanted me to do whatever it was that made me happy. What I was finding from my experiments was that being alone but feeling connected to everything while in the fishbowl was making me unusually happy.

One of the fundamental discoveries from my fishbowl experiments was that there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is what happens when we feel disconnect from ourselves and those around us. As a result, we feel very alone. We can experience loneliness even when we are with family and friends. We can experience loneliness when we are alone. It is a state of disconnection. Solitude is a state of connection which is not dependent upon the presence or absence of other people. A person can feel very connected especially when alone.

The fish in the fishbowl exists in a state of solitude. It is connected to everything and through the fishbowl it observes us as the lonely and disconnected people that we are. I assume the fish feels bad for us even though the irony is that we often feel bad for it.

After a weekend spent in the fishbowl I had never felt so connected. Outside of brief interactions with my wife, I did not talk with anyone. I was just present with myself and my experience of being alive in the present moment, free of any obligation. It was beautiful. What I noticed was that it was only when I came out of the fishbowl and started communicating with people through text messages, emails, social media and even in person that the feelings of loneliness and disconnection started to return.

And then I realized that the paradox is that we are trying to solve our problems of loneliness and disconnection through the very mediums and behaviors that are perpetuating our loneliness and disconnection. What a shit show it is.

My final experiment was to spend a week in the fishbowl. Saturday until Saturday. I was fortunate to have good weather all the way throughout. I slept well every night and felt excited to wake up in the morning. I would sit on the bench, look around and wait for my beautiful wife to bring me my coffee, a croissant and my morning organic tobacco cigarette. Thus began each day. And each day I spent doing the same things. Walking around to the various corners of the fishbowl. Watching and observing. Feeling and experiencing. Then I would sit on the bench. Observe more. Listen more and think about various things. I was in a state of complete and absolute fascination. I had everything I wanted. I was living the life of a fish in a fishbowl.

I want to move into the fishbowl full-time. Without a doubt, it is a wiser and more fulfilling world in there. I am not saying that it is not without its difficulties, but you learn how to work through these quickly so you can get back into a state of fascination and calm. To be free from the pressures of what other people think of you, to be free from the striving to better my life, to be free from obligations and worries about the future was an absolute delight. Going to the bathroom in a bucket was not great but it was a small price to pay for the fascination I felt,  which is a direct result of being present in life.

If I am ever able to move into the fishbowl full-time (I am discussing it with my wife who would have to work more to compensate for my loss of income) I will be sure to one day write a book about it. Just for those who may be interested in embodying the wisdom of a fish.

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