The terrifying tale of the most moral man in the world

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oomf 6

“Which story would you like tonight?” He asked, bundling into the cold bed beside her. “The Most Moral Man in the World or The Fisherman who Painted Magic Fish?”

“Mmm, the Moral Man. He sounds a lot like me.”

“Yeah right. So let’s see. He was in my Philosophy class at school. I never noticed him until the last semester, mostly because I was twenty and more interested in looking at all the pretty girls.”

“You’re not allowed to.”

“This was ten years ago.”

“Still…”

“Jesus. Anyway, we were doing a class on Kant. We weren’t friends, but that day in the seminar he was sat next to me. He was sort of a quiet hipster before there was even a word for them.”

“Was he fit?”

“Totally non-descript. I can’t even see his face, don’t think I could even back then. But I always noticed how he wrote everything down in class, everything, and even dated each page at the top like we were taught to do in elementary school. I thought that was kind of kooky.”

“I never used to write the date. I just used to doodle.”

“Of course you did. You’re the quintessential doodling daydreamer.”

“You’re the quintessential doosh. No, it helped me learn. Every picture I drew — the swirl of a sunflower, the lines of a star — they all represented what the lecturer was saying. The lecturer would explain a theory, and from there my doodles grew. I don’t think the teachers liked it though. It probably looked like I was being rude.”

“It definitely did.”

“Once a boy in class asked to borrow my notes. First and last time that ever happened.”

“I bet. Anyway, the lecturer, this pompous old guy, told us Kant’s moral philosophy.”

“What’s that?”

“Basically, Kant says you should only act according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”

“What? So, like, going against people’s arguments of ‘What’s the point in voting? My vote won’t make a difference anyway.’ Kant would say, ‘If you don’t vote, no one else needs to vote either, and if no one votes, there’s no democracy?’”

“Right. And if you kill, then everyone can kill. Or if you steal, everyone can steal. And that’s no good at all. It’s a nice theory.”

“But it doesn’t make sense for some things. I mean, if I use birth control, everyone can use birth control, and then there’s no babies in the world and we’re all screwed? It’s way too extreme, too didactic. Did Kant follow his rule?”

“No one has, apart from…The Most Moral Man in the World.”

“Is this a true story?”

“Totally true. My stories are always true.”

“I like this guy. So what did he do?”

“He started smelling really terrible.”

“Don’t be dumb!”

“For real. He stunk. And then I noticed he had stopped bringing a notepad to school. I was curious and asked him why. He said that if everyone in the world used notebooks, there would be no more trees. Which I thought was going a little far, but hey.”

“Why didn’t he just use recycled paper?”

“Said that uses too much energy to produce. He was really passionate about it. More sparky than when all his energy went into copying the words of lecturers into his notebooks. Said he’d stopped using soap and hot water too, because if…”

“Everyone in the world did it, the world would have imploded long ago?”

“Right.”

“Well, we just have to ensure only the privileged Western few can afford these things, and humanity will get to carry on for a few more centuries.”

“You’re not even funny.”

“Thanks. What else did he do? This is so cool.”

“He became vegetarian, then vegan, then started foraging until even that wasn’t enough and he became a fruitarian.”

“Like in that Hugh Grant film? I wikipediad it. Not even Gandhi managed to be a fruitarian full-time. How did this guy…?”

“Chris.”

“How did he do it? Are you allowed trail mix if you’re a fruitarian? I mean, that’s all Canadians eat, right? Cranberries and pecans.”

“I only eat bacon.”

She leaned over and kissed his cheek, “Well that’s because you’re the most Canadian guy in the world.”

“The most Canadian guy with the most American accent.”

“Like I can tell the difference. Though I do wish you sounded more German.”

“Ach so,” he continued, “Chris started getting really skinny. I mean, this was mid-winter, months of snow. No fruits are falling from trees at that kind of year. “

“He should have hibernated like a squirrel.”

“Well, he kind of did. And ate a lot of, well, trail mix.”

She laughed. “Super Canadian.”

“I was worried about him. His sparkiness at the beginning of the experiment were gone. Now he just looked cold and gaunt. I took nuts into class, hoping to share them with him to keep his weight up, but he said he couldn’t have any as they were in plastic bags, and if all nuts were in plastic bags that would be no good for the world at all. So I said if everyone wasted the opportunity of food like he was about to do, that would also be catastrophic. He had this vein in his forehead and it started to pulse really ferociously through his skin. He was holding his head in his hands, screaming in the middle of class. I was really worried about him. I guess it was OCD or something.”

“Everything is ‘OCD or something’ nowadays.”

“True.”

“So what happened to him?”

“It’s really sad. I saw him in the street after he stopped going to classes. He was wearing no shoes. I didn’t understand what he was saying. I guess he was so paralyzed and confused about what to do, that in the end he literally did nothing. He died of starvation, alone in his dorm room.”

“That’s the saddest story in the world. Was he nice and kind?”

“Super nice.”

“His poor mum.” She thought for a moment, “Kant’s the worst.”

“The absolute worst.”

“That poor guy. Can you imagine driving yourself crazy just to be good?”

“Not after that. Drink, smoke, eat meat, die anyway.”

“I like that. Cigarette?”

“Sure.”

Our lifestyles have become extremely complex

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oomf 3

“Our lifestyles have become extremely complex. How can we simplify our lives, reduce consumption, lower our impact on the environment, do less harm to other living things, reduce expenses, have fewer distractions, have less maintenance, enjoy more freedom and flexibility, and be able to live life in a way that is less financially demanding? These are the questions that the simplicity of Zen can help to address.” — John Daido Loori, The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life

Girl meets boy part II: The excellent adventures of the shiny salmon

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oomf 9

“I miss you.”

“You too. I’m so happy you called.”

“How are you doing?”

“I’m good, it’s 5am and I’m talking to a pretty girl on Skype. So I’m good.”

“Aw, you’re sweet.”

“So, how’s the job hunt going?”

“I still have no job.”

“Just be an artist.”

“I wish.”

“What have you been applying for?”

“Everything. Nothing. Five things…in two weeks. It’s not that much. Yesterday I applied to be a travel agent.”

He burst out laughing.

“Fuck you!”

“I’m sorry. It’s just, that’s pretty funny. But what about the temping?”

“Oh, I got my final warning.”

“What for?”

“I can’t sleep again, not at night. The manager caught me napping at my desk because I was so tired. I’m screwed if they fire me. You have to call me every night before bed to help me sleep, ok?”

“Sure. Do you want a story now?”

“What about?”

“Ok, this one’s called, uhm, The Excellent Adventures of the Shiny Salmon.”

“Of course it is. So where did you meet this shiny shaman? Sorry, salmon.”

“In Amsterdam.”

“They have salmon in Amsterdam?”

“They do when you’re on LSD.”

“Ha! Is this a true story?”

“It is the true story of my dreams.”

“Of course it is. Tell me.”

“Ok. So one September there was a shiny salmon. It was time to leap up the waterfall to food and safety with all the other salmon, but he could feel it in his fins, he just wasn’t ready.

‘There’s so much I’ve still to explore downstream,’ He told him mum. ‘I heard from this koi about a pool downriver that lights up with bioluminescence under the full moon, and all the snails around do a moon dance under the stars. Oh mum, I want to do a moon dance! I want to catch a ride on the back of a pink dolphin and be tickled by strange, glowing moss. I want to taste the inky plankton who live on the edge of the creeping waterlilies a thousand miles away, and to hear the sweet songs of the Narwhal Symphony Orchestra up north. I want to live, mum. I can’t go upstream, not yet.’

Him mum kissed him on the gill and said, ‘I love you and want you to find meaning in your life, but just know that you won’t be so young anymore when you eventually do come to climb the waterfall, and you’ll have none of your friends around to encourage you up to the top. Even if you do make it back up, we’ll seem different to you. You’ll seem different to us. Our bonds will change, and you might find the peace and security of a regular salmon’s life difficult to settle back into. You’ll miss the open seas, but you’ll also feel envious of your cousins who have begun to lay eggs with other salmon.’

The shiny salmon began to cry. ‘I love you mum.’

‘I know, shiny salmon. I love you too.’

With that, she kissed him goodbye and flipped up the stream.

For years, the shiny salmon had the time of his life exploring the world’s rivers and oceans. He danced with the most beautiful cod he’d ever seen to the song of a thousand Narwhals. He tried hallucinogenic seaweed with a group of dazed plankton, splashed on the backs of friendly pink dolphins in the Yangtze, and at a snowy hot spring in Japan, learned how macaques live and vowed to bring such mammalian acts of physical care back to his own community.

He spent a summer drifting along Turkey’s rivers, getting massages from garra rufa fish until he grew thoroughly fed up with exploring, bored of being alone, scared of growing complacent at all the places he’d been. He missed his mum and his salmon friends, was sick to death of all those dumb, gurgling spider crabs who got in his face and whose language he just couldn’t grasp no matter how hard he tried. He was tired of falling in love with the wrong fish and the wrong mermaids on the wrong side of the world. It was time to go home.

But when he made his last flip to the top of the waterfall where all his friends and family lived, his mum didn’t even recognise him. After all, shiny salmon was now half blind from the muddy waters of the Yangtze, and was still recovering from swallowing black oil in the warm seas off Mexico. His cousins shunned him, told him they didn’t need his help finding food. He was just too full of dangerous talk of how salmon should really, really live like monkeys. He was just too weird.

Tinkering around, bored, one day, shiny salmon discovered that if he mixed local dragonfly legs with a little algae, it tasted just like the shrimp he remembered from his nights spent dancing and feasting off the Jamaican coast. He cooked up a big dinner for his old friends, cousins, and mum.

‘That was the best meal I’ve ever had,’ whispered his old friend, Sarah, kissing him on the fin. And little by little, he began to see the beauty of staying in one place, of living life slowly.

What I’m trying to say is, if you love life upstream, love feeding and laying eggs and growing chubby with your friends, then that’s beautiful. But it’s ok that it’s taken you a little while to climb that waterfall. It’s ok that your life upstream isn’t quite there yet, and that you’re a little envious of your friends who are now way ahead of you. It’s ok, because you did what was right for you, and things will come together. Do see what I’m trying to say?”

“I’m the salmon.”

“Something will come up. We’re hopefully going to live a long time, ’til we’re 80 or maybe even 90. A gap year or three is still just a few percent of your life, and you’ve had a great life. You’re a great artist. And I’m no guru, but it pays to travel when you’re young and limber and too sweet to be cynical.”

“You’re right. I’m going to approach some galleries today.”

“Night night, sweetheart.”

“Night night, and thank you.”

“What for?”

“Just, you stop me from feeling like a ghost girl.”

“A ghost girl?”

“It’s just nice to talk to someone once in a while, to feel less invisible.”

“I know. I know. Sweet dreams.”

Girl meets boy.

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“You know, I’ve never slept more than four hours in a night, not since I was a kid.”

“You’re kidding. But why are your eyes so pretty? Shouldn’t they be puffed-up and blue black like you’ve just been in a punch up?”

“I’ll punch you in a minute. I don’t know. My eyes hurt a lot. Like there’s matches and fluff and not enough tears in there.”

“Why can’t you sleep?”

“I’m not sure. Just never have. I never feel totally energized. Sure I smile and all those things, but I always feel a little faded. Like there is a nice, warm bed in the back of my head, and it’s pulling me away from conversations towards it. That’s why I’m so shy.”

“I wouldn’t describe you as shy.”

“I am, inside. Just, everyone has all this energy around me, extroverts like you. And it’s like their loudness and jokes and need for people pushes me into a little cold heap, and that’s when I dream of books and bed and want to go home where I won’t be judged. You ever feel that way?”

“Sure. You slept fine as a kid?”

“Yeh, up until I was around fourteen. I’m not sure why. Now I face bedtime with relief and dread, equal parts. I’m happy for the silence, scared for the next eight hours spent tossing around in the dark. The thing is, I slept well last night.”

“Really?”

“Yeh. I don’t know why.”

“That’s amazing. Uhm, you think it’s because I was there?”

“Maybe, we’ll have to test it again tonight.” She smiled.