Octopus 1/15/22

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Who doesn’t love an octopus?  Okay, maybe not everybody, but most people that I know love them.  They inspire imagination, are insanely intelligent and even jealous.  A zookeeper sitting at a desk was hit in the back of a head with a rotten shrimp, according to one of the stories I’ve heard.  Having fed the octopus its usual dinner, one of the many shrimp was bad.  This apparently upset the octopus, who climbed out of its (escape proof) tank, made its way across the floor to throw the shrimp at the zookeeper to show its anger, then made its way back and into its tank.  Among the many hidden messages here is the fact that this octopus could have escaped any time it wanted.  It had the intelligence, and the skill.

I’ve often been enamored by the videos of friendly little octopi greeting divers and exploring their masks, tanks, and playing in their hand.  They seem so very friendly and cheerful, but, if you get too close to their nest, they’ll warn you that they’re not happy and they want you to back off.  They have several “warning” behaviors that divers often recognize.  Many of us are even aware of these videos, but there is another side to octopi that many people do not seem to know; their bite.

Hidden on what we would consider the underside of the octopus, among all of that soft looking cartilage, right in the middle where all of the tentacles converge is a very hard, extremely sharp and excessively nasty beak.  This beak works with a scissor action, and divers that often continue to be annoying to an octopus, ignoring the warnings discover that they have this beak as the octopus will bite them.  Depending on the size of the octopus, the beak is large, sharp and strong enough to bite through the dive suit and cause enough damage so as to require stitches. 

There’s a lesson here.  So many of the kindest people have sharp edges.  It’s not the lack of the beak that makes them nice, but the fact that they keep it inactive, but they can only be pushed so far.  Eventually, if you push a person to the edge, and ignore their warning signs, they can show you the side that you may not have seen before, a side that, much like the octopus beak, you may not even be aware that they have.  It is my understanding that people who are perceived to be “nice” are often more likely to be pushed around and abused.  I’m sure this was a research article but I cannot currently find the reference, as most of my searches come back to abuse of women, but the idea is the same.  “Nice” is a trait that is often viewed as weak, and as such nice women are often physically or emotionally abused more often.  And yet, we also have Lorena Bobbitt. 

If you recall the Lorena Bobbitt story, she was perceived as very docile, polite and kind, but also alleges that she suffered emotional abuse at the hands of her then-husband.  Psychologically speaking, it is not a matter of whether or not she actually was, as the perception of abuse is just as damaging to a person’s psyche as reality (I happen to believe that she was legitimately abused but that’s my opinion).  Eventually, the hard side of her finally surfaced in a most spectacular manner resulting in her husband appearing on a porn film just long enough to provide “proof” that the new one does, indeed, work.  But, from what I’ve heard, in a most unsatisfying performance. 

As a society we need to recognize that the weak people are the ones who are not nice at all.  Believe me when I say that it takes great inner strength to keep that dark side at bay and prevent it from lashing out.  This is from personal experience, and once it has been released, it’s not easy to get it back into Pandora’s box. 

We should learn to cultivate kindness and gentle nature.  Too many people want to take advantage, step on and crush kind people.  All too often the nice people are the ones who are overlooked and ignored, leaving their insight and ideas trampled on the ground without being able to actually evaluate them.  When I felt I was being overlooked and emotionally abused by my captain, I made it a point to stand up to his emotional assaults and refuse to back down.  Yes, after I was dismissed, they filled my position, but they will never replace me.  My beak did it’s part.


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