Does the figure on the rock in the picture above look like it could be a mermaid to you?
I was sitting down with a glass of wine after work, and out of utter exhaustion, I flipped the TV on. After flirting with an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I turned on The Discovery Channel. Mermaids: The Body Found was the magic remedy for satiating my desire to mindlessly waste time and maybe learn something.
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of mermaids, unicorns, griffins, chimeras, and other supernatural or mystical creatures.
The recent documentary on both Animal Planet and The Discovery Channel presents compelling videos and scientific hypotheses that support the idea that mermaids do, in fact, exist. The show is seeded with pictures of hieroglyphics of mermaids, videos of alien-esque sea creature sightings, and rebuttals from nervous, non-believing government officials.
The mayor of Kiryat Yam (in Israel) is even offering $1,000,000 to any individual who can provide either a body, photo or video of what is undoubtedly and undeniably a mermaid. FYI, the picture above, taken by American tourists, didn’t qualify and wasn’t good enough.
The show even interviews a marine biologist, Dr. Paul Robertson, to vouch for the evidence the show presents. The host of the show, entitled Mermaids: The Body Found, deems the video “evidence” to be “compelling” and “conclusive.”
But, Dr. Robertson’s real name is David Evans, and he is a very intelligent actor with a scientific beard and a professor-esque polo shirt. He looks like Zach Galifianakis, actually.
Apparently, he used to work for NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and he had to leave his job because of all the pressure and ill-reception of his mermaid work. He is presented as a martyr-like figure, attacked by government agencies and his biology-savvy peers. He acts relatively uncomfortable on T.V. and does a good job of it.
He presents believable ideas about mermaids; one theory he talks about is the theory that dolphins today can cooperate with fishermen by herding fish onto shores, and that they do this because they have been coexisting with mermaids for thousands of years.
One of the more relevant and coercive hypotheses that the show uses in support of mermaid existence is the aquatic ape hypothesis, which presents the notion that the precursors to humans (apes) must have spent thousands of years living in and adapting to aquatic habitats; thus, mermaids could exist. The show presents anecdotes from circus shows, Danish folklore, and camera footage from beachgoers, tourists, and fishermen.
You can watch the show for yourself here.
But it is fake.
The mockumentary, though staged, brings up an important point in my mind. Even though this show has been found to be fake and did not prove that mermaids are real, it did not prove that they are fake. Maybe mermaids are real.
And even if mermaids are indeed fake, we should keep believing that they are real until scientists are 100% sure that they are fake. We should believe in unicorns and angels too. These creatures allow us to aspire to an imaginative and beautiful realm of existence.
Sometimes we need that fantasy existence. Sometimes, a glass of wine and a stimulating and mystical evening is exactly what it takes to get away from the reality of the hum-drum, ho-hum workweek.
So keep writing poems, keep painting pictures and having picnics. Keep looking at stars and hoping to see Pegasus bolting through the glittery air. Maybe on your morning run, you saw a nymph or a unicorn in the forest. Perhaps when you were riding your bike to work, you felt like you could fly.
Sometimes I feel like Wonder Woman when I go to my job as a wildland firefighter. I know I’m not, but it’s something to aspire to! These fantasies make us more creative as people—more able to cope with the realities of life.
So keep looking at the ripples in the water and keep believing there is something under them, because someday you might see a beautiful, scaly, trident-wielding man or woman looking back at you.
And it might just be a reflection of yourself. Who cares? You’re a great, beautiful, and mystical being worthy of exploration.
You can be the fantasy you crave.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman