Fly on the Wall—And Now For a Word From Our Exceptionalism


Fly on the Wall—And Now For a Word From Our Exceptionalism

To translate our learning into a more personalized form of life, one where we forage and consume in the most of authentic ways, it helps to have space to breathe.  Witness, then, the noble mudskipper, a fish living on land.  The mudskipper is known best for the way it spits great gobs of mud out of its seaside flat.  “‘While they live on both land and in water, they hunt almost exclusively on land—feasting on insects, small crustaceans, and worms.”

Yet, this slimy shoreline denizen isn’t just embarking on an endless round of renos and honey-do lists.  Ambivalence abounds for this fish out of water, because, even as it must survive on land (as we students must sink or swim in the labour market or commodity culture, not to mention the battleground of social expectations), this amphibious fish, in the end, needs air to breathe like every animal or plant.

And With a Splat We Breathe!

Hopping, skipping, and jumping merrily from libraries to the real world, we might feel like a bit like a fish out of place when surveilled by the more so-called-normal specimens of our culture.  As Talcott Parsons commented decades ago, alienated sociology seems part and parcel with university attendance in those often antisocial of social sciences.  Ambivalence abounds when we consider what feels wrong or askew in our society and it’s precisely that curiosity and revulsion, a detail stew if ever there was, that drives us into the clasp of AU.  To learn, perchance to grow, and maybe to find ourselves.  That could be the motto of distance students the world over.

Living in a Yap?  Yup!

So, like hippos going where they please and leaving fertilizer along the way, the regal mudskipper lives a similar spreadable existence.  “Mudskippers in Yap build Y-shaped burrows in the marine inter tidal soil in the mangroves.  But because water doesn’t get in these burrows, they can become oxygen deficient.  The mudskippers then gulp oxygen and exhale them in the burrows to create a pocket of air.  They create these burrows with their mouths, taking a mouthful of mud and spitting it out at the edge of its territory, creating a wall barrier for their home” (Asloan, online)

Like a far-sighted social theorist, the mudskipper too espies a unique worldview.

“Another interesting characteristic of the mudskipper is its eyes, sitting on top of the mudskipper’s head, not on each side like a fish.  Each eye works independent of each other, similar to a chameleon, allowing them to see above and below the water at the same time.  The upper part of the eyes can only see black and white utilizing the rods, surveying for predators.  While the bottom part of the eye is equipped with cones which allow them to see color.” (Asloan, online).

However we choose to elaborate on our studies with peers and co-workers, the key to remember is that we’re perpetually imparting, and importing in a sense, ideas and methods that may seem foreign to others at first.  Only upon further consideration will such thoughts stimulate further thought.  It’s like, at first the mudskipper is comical and later it turns out to be a brilliant creator of a Mars-colony-esque atmosphere control system.  One can only hope that our enthusiastic orations on social theory will elicit future squeals of appreciation.

The task remains for us in our studies to learn to acquire that rarified air of thoughtful critique that will allow us to nest more comfortably in this culture we call home.  And an occasional blorp sound effect can only help; laughter is a panacea not only for physical ills but surely for the mind itself!

Asloan.  (2013).  ‘Mudskippers in the Mangroves’.  Queen’s University of Charlotte.  Retrieved from: