Faith in God
January 19, 2001
INSPIRATION is like a fish: it falls out of a clear sky. This may not be what you expect of a fish. Swimming, yes. Leaping, perhaps. Fighting on a hook and wriggling in a net. Glistening on a slab and steaming on a plate. This is all appropriate for fish.
But appropriate is not the same as exciting. Or intriguing. I love the notion of falling fish because it’s so utterly strange.
There is a woodcut in the 16th century Historia De Gentibus by O Magnus, depicting 22 fat, pouting fish dripping from a raincloud. This was hardly the first recorded instance of weird creature showers —1,800 years ago in Sardinia, frogs fell like hailstones.
In living memory, 150 perch-like silver fish rained down in a tropical storm close to Killarney Station in Northern Territory, Australia, in 1974.
Most scientists would prefer to ignore these reports. Even when the stories are confirmed by hundreds of witnesses — such as the fish-fall in London just before the Great Fire, when market traders swept up baskets of whiting and sprats, and sold them — science is sceptical.
The Great Fire, they would say, was so long ago that these reports can safely be discounted.
Science ought to be sceptical about inspiration too. A scientist cannot put a composer or a writer in a laboratory and command: ‘‘Under test conditions and full scrutiny, create a masterpiece.’’
Any genius would complain: ‘‘I can’t summon inspiration at will!’’
And that would be touted as proof that inspiration does not exist — or that, at the very least, no causal link can be established between genius and inspiration.
The truth of course is that inspiration exists in brief bursts, for just the time that it takes for a fish to fall from the sky.
Prayers are like inspirations, for they are fuelled by a blaze of fervent desire that flares up in the heart.
No one but a mystic could live in a perpetual state of prayer, just as no one but a madman could live in a constant stream of inspiration.
You may be fingering the edge of the paper, ready to turn the page, thinking, ‘‘I don’t know what Geller’s on about this week’’. I’ll tell you, but first I’ll explain what inspired this column: reports that intensive salmon harvesting causes dangerous mutations in the meat, which can produce carcinogenic toxins.
In other words, fish can give you cancer, if they come from the worst sort of battery fish-farm.
The conditions in which salmon at some Scottish farms are bred defy description.
More than 125,000 tonnes of salmon is shipped annually from hatcheries where the water is bathed in regular rapid bursts of intense light — brief artificial days that fool the salmon, packed 250,000 to one giant cage, into growing more quickly.
‘‘Salmon are farmed in cages at higher densities than battery hens,’’ Don Staniford, a researcher for Friends of the Earth Scotland, told one Sunday paper.
‘‘They are fed a diet marinated in chemicals and artificial colourings, injected with vaccines and growth promoters, then starved for 10 days before being slaughtered.’’ These fish do nothing inappropriate. They swim, they are caught, they are eaten. There is no chance of a factory-farmed salmon ever falling from the sky.
But the way they exist, lifelessly, is literally poisonous — to them and to us. Prey to infestation by swarms of sea lice, the farmed fish are passing the disease on to wild salmon which swim outside the cages.
The wild fish are dying out, reduced to 10 per cent of earlier levels.
For fish and for humans, a life without inspiration and prayer, in which mundane behaviour becomes an unbreakable norm, is deadly. It destroys itself and the lives around it.
Factory farming of human beings has never been more popular. We cram ourselves into ever smaller cars, crawling on ever busier roads between ever denser cities.
We shut ourselves in ever smaller office cubicles, ever more tightly pressed to computer screens.
We pack ourselves like sardines or salmon onto public transport and return home to watch other people live even more restricted lives on reality TV gameshows.
There is an escape but you won’t find it in the cage. By allowing your mind to do the impossible, by falling into the sky like a fish, your spirit can become inspired to be free of the humdrum.
This takes faith. And faith takes prayer. Science may ignore fish-falls but God believes that everything is possible — so place your faith in God.
This was the notion that was tugging on a hook in my mind as I sat with a paintbrush in my hand at Poole Pottery in Dorset.
Its managing director, Peter Mills, had invited me to create my own design for a limited edition of Poole plates.
It was a wonderful privilege, and I was excited at the prospect of seeing my own artwork thrust into the kiln and baked at a heat that could reduce a human being to a handful of ash.
My imagination was full of possibilities, and I questioned Peter about the technical challenges in encrusting a design with rock crystals and amethysts.
The first design had to be simpler. Just colours on clay. An image with beauty and meaning. I painted a fish.
Read Uri Geller’s stunning online novel, Nobody’s Child, at www.uristory.com
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