Weeping With A Walleye

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Some years ago an American research centre conducted an experiment with a walleyed pike.  They placed the fish in an aquarium and fed it regularly.  Then, after a time, they inserted an invisible glass plate into the aquarium, sealing off part of it.  They began to put the walleye's food on the other side of that plate.  Every time the fish tried to take some food, it would bump against the glass plate and come away empty.

For quite a while the fish kept swimming up, attempting to take food.  Each time, it bumped its mouth and came away empty.

Eventually the walleyed pike stopped trying.  It would swim towards the food but, just before striking the glass plate, it would turn and swim slowly away.  At this point the researchers removed the glass plate.  But the damage had been done.  The fish never ate again.  No amount of hunger could drive it to attempt again to eat.  It would swim up to the food and, at the last second, turn away, not knowing that the glass plate was now gone and that it could eat freely.  The walleye eventually died of malnutrition, surrounded by food.

This is not meant as a sentimental anecdote designed to make us feel sorry for a poor fish that had the misfortune of falling victim to the cruelties of human experiment.  Hearing it does give the heart a sad wrench, but the sorrow it triggers goes much deeper.

All of us know exactly what happened to this walleyed pike and why it eventually stopped eating ; and many of us are in danger of dying from a similar malnutrition.  We are dying from a lack of love in a world where everyone wants to love, and we are unable to pour out love upon people who are starving for it.  There are no glass plates between ourselves and others, and yet we cannot or do not reach out to each other.  Something is deeply wrong and we are, all of us, deeply sad.

The value of this story is that it speaks to the soul gently, directly, deeply.  It is something not so much to be explained as to be felt.  The story of the walleyed pike helps us name our sorrow.

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Ronald Rolheiser OMI

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I have attempted to locate a date for this writing and from my investigations I have been unable to do so.  I am also of the belief that the writer has not claimed Copyright on these words and allows them to be used freely.  The writer was a teacher of philosophy in Edmonton, Canada and and now resides in San Antonio, Texas, where he is President of the School of Theology.

If I have inadvertently used it in contravention of any Copyright claim I have done so unintentionally and in good faith.  The aim of reproducing the story here is purely to allow others to read its contents and perhaps take something worthwhile from their meaning. All credit for the actual article is given to Ronald Rolheiser OMI.

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