On Eels, love, destruction, and human values

I have three self-imposed rules in my reading journey:

  1. I read 60 books every year

While the first rule is based on a random number, the second two are designed to force me into starting and finishing books I never would have otherwise read. I believe that a life spent lying inside the comfortable little box of topics that interest my tiny mind will never allow me to experience big bangs of unrelated ideas.

A few days ago, I found myself reading an informative scientific book that had been recommended to me. A Swedish book entirely about eels. It made me laugh to see the very uninspiring title, The Book of Eels, accompanied by the Wall Street Journal’s note describing it as “captivating”.

As soon as I started the book, I could not put it down for a moment. For days, I couldn’t read anything else, talk about anything else, or Google anything other than eels. For nights, I dreamt of nothing but eels. The book frequently mentioned a town, Comacchio, where due to its peculiar geographical position at a point where fresh and marine water meet, an eel fishing and culinary tradition had developed. Comacchio is four hours by train from my home, and the questions not answered by the book were piling up in my head. So I told my 12-year-old son “Get ready, we are leaving for EEL weekend!”. (EL means THE in Spanish).

And here’s what we found out.

The eels we know as harmless little “snakes” found in all our rivers, or delicious fat-rich fish found in our restaurants, are actually magical and extraordinary travelers, and also a species at imminent risk of extinction.

Each eel takes on five different forms over the course of its life:

  1. Leptocephalus, or larvae: they are born in the Sargasso Sea, from where the Gulf Stream sweeps the Anguilla Anguilla species to European coasts, while the Anguilla Rostrata species (American eels), differentiated by having fewer vertebrae, somehow end up in America instead. Imagine the eels counting the vertebrae of potential partners to figure out who to breed with at the Sargasso Sea rave!

Big bang of unrelated ideas. This is what I realised during Eel Weekend:

  • Human beings see a yellow eel, and believe that only the yellow eel exists. The invisible and complex are far from what our eyes and hearts can process, the patterns are simplified to make them understandable to our tiny brains. The eel is food. Those who want to sleep with a person of the same sex are strange. Entrepreneurs are models and heroes. God is dead. Environmentalists who stain Van Gogh's paintings hate art.
    There are no animals who travel the world swimming without eating for years, nor invincible loves, exploitative and thieving entrepreneurs, miraculous and invisible orders, or environmentalists who want to open people’s eyes to the real priorities. During our weekend in Comacchio, we found no museum, documentary or film about eels that mentioned the fact that yellow eels must be released from farms in order to travel, metamorphose and reproduce. We also met several fishermen who were silver eel deniers, who convincingly claimed that eels breed in Europe in their ponds because such tiny larvae could never make it from the other side of the world. Humans see yellow eels and kill and dissect yellow eels to find their genitals. What if the answer is beyond.

Whatever makes us humans makes us inhuman. Our love and ambition mirror the need to taste, conquer, possess, dominate, destroy and kill. Our current values and everything we currently are, cannot coexist with any future scenario respectful of other living creatures.
I am in no position to provide solutions, as I am constantly wandering the world, spying, trying to shape, trying to bend, trying to conquer, trying to make my dreams prevail, trying to rape the essence of people “for their best”. Or trying to build a world in line with my imagination, such as I’m doing with this article. As so many have done before me, such as the Communists, the Nazis, and the Islamic republic in Iran.

All I can do is continue to read very different books, hope for big bangs of ideas, and observe myself, my behaviour, my inner nature, my evil seed and its germination into a person who considers herself altruistic, open-minded and good.

As of today, there are eight billion of us. We have become eight billion times responsible for our evil seed. Let us open our eyes.

Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results. (Misattributed to Albert Einstein)

This is the great paradox, which has also become part of the eel question of our time: in order to understand the eel, we have to have an interest in it, we have to continue to hunt, kill and eat it. An eel is never allowed to simply be an eel. It’s never allowed to just be. Thus, it has also become a symbol of our complex relationship with all the other forms of life on this planet.
(The Book of Eels, Patrik Svensson)

Eel Weekend- Comacchio

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Evelyn Amaral Garcia

Call me Develyn. Because of my funny life I was as awarded the "European International Women's Leadership Award 2020" in Brussels