The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 11 (February 1, 1935)
The Social Swim or Big Fish & Little
Weighed in the Scales.
Seeing that we seem all at sea it is safe to assume that the social swim is a somewhat fishy business. Truly, there are divers fish in the social scale, ranging from the big bait-snatchers and the glib gate-crashers down to the tiny tiddlers who tiddle and toddle about the basement of the social structure. Betwixt these two extremes are the fish who are content to flap a fin in a mildly middle-class manner merely to keep themselves politely poised above the flat-fish and below the flush fish, and to earn their salt by the swish of their prows, while they ignore the social hook-line-and-sinker which so frequently lands an ambitious fish on the rocks. The flat-fish, of course, are content to stick-in-the-mud, knowing full well that they would only let themselves down by lifting themselves up. They recognise the danger of high thinking on a low plane and prefer to look where they are going—and then not to go. The octopus is a social outcast who inevitably over-reaches himself in so many directions simultaneously that he never knows whether he has grasped what he is after or whether he is after what he has grasped. Consequently he is one of those lonely business men who wonder why nobody loves them. Anyway, if he did go out and about, he would be the death of the party. The crayfish is another socially impossible product of marine endeavour, being a “tough guy” who practices the “shell game” and “puts in the nips” into any fish who is not nippy enough to keep his distance. He is so hard that the only time he is known to blush is when he is “boiled”; but even a “boiled” crayfish may be excused for blushing in the company in which he so frequently finds himself. But, apart from all this, he is not even a fish. Some say that he is a fossilised sea-boot with the legs on the outside. In any case, he wears his eyes half an inch ahead of himself so that he never quite catches up with the scenery, and thus his social ambitions (if any) must always be half an inch beyond his reach.
The shark is a social “bite”; whether it be a grey-nurse or a blue-nose, a mako, a barko (or dog fish), or just a plain narko (or snatch-cat); its only ambition is to nip into the social circle for its pound of flesh, fish, or fowl. Whether it wears fins or frills, gills or twills, spots or spats, it is just a social hanger-on which is difficult to shake off. Verily, the social swim is a pretty kettle o' fish. To put it wildly:
The social swim is full of fish,
Who paddle, puddle, swank, or swish,
According to their social whim—
For every fish must sink or swim.
Some fish swim high and some swim low,
And some are quite content to know
That they can flip a friendly tail
Midway upon the social scale.
Some fish are climbers, others stay,
Like oysters, in their beds all day;
Or, like the flounder and the sole,
Are satisfied upon the whole,
And seldom, by ambition's snare,
Can be induced to “take the air.”
But all the fish who work and play,
Except the octopus and cray,
Are indispensable, we deem,
As adjuncts to the social scheme.
The climbers, and the slinkers sly,
The swordfish and the little fry,
The whale, the whelk, the stingaree,
All puddle in the social sea.
But fish who're wise will never wish
To fly, unless they're flying fish,
Because the upper social air
Is sometimes tragically rare.
A Pippin from the Tree of Knowledge.
But, deviating from fish and fiction to fact and faction, let us examine the growth of society from the moment the serpent inaugurated the principles of social-climbing by convoluting up the tree of knowledge and dismissing Adam with the “pip.”
Worlds Within Worlds.
Thus there are millions of worlds within worlds on this world among worlds. Every man's world is his own, in which he lives as segregated from his fellows as a sausage struck from its string. The sole privilege left him in this sorry scheme if “isms,” “schisms” and “whizzims,” is this right to retire into his own world, slip the bar across the door, hang up the notice “no admittance without permission,” and “get together” with himself.
If he so desires he can stay there for the term of his unnatural life. But only rare souls, such as “hoboes,” confirmed dyspeptics, and philosophers have the nerve to do it; and, of the three, the philosophers are usually the first to emerge, being philosophical enough to know that it is impossible to maintain a full mind on an empty stomach; so, by emptying their minds, they fill their stomachs and become “practical philosophers,” which is equivalent to giving a gymnastic display over the wireless. Hoboes can hang out longer because a hobo lives by the sweat of other people's brows. Dyspeptics, of course, can exist without any visible means of disport.
But each man's private world should be a retreat rather than a dug-out, and, as Aristotle said, “a little chin-wag now and then is tonic for the wisest men.”
Social Suds in the Terrestrial Tub.
Hence most men are driven out of their little worlds by fear of that age-old loneliness which besets the human animal; and from this fear has arisen sundry social agglomerations ranging from the family to the nation, and embracing clans, tribes, lodges, societies, sects, quorums, boards, associations, guilds, clubs, bridge parties—and even worse. Every man, being circumlocuted by the exigencies of his ego, and imprisoned in a cell of comparative mental inarticulation, flees to his fellows to gain some modicum of comfort from their physical presence. Thus the more lonely you are the greater social success you are likely to be.
The Unbending of Pretending.
Of course crowds are not essential to happiness, but happiness, after all, is only the X in an algebraical equation postulating the perfect synchronisation of the juices digestive and perceptive. This state of perfection can be attained just as easily in dinner suit or diving suit.
When two or more gather to gibber, they are only pretending that they are not afraid of the big bad wolf of loneliness which put the hoodoo on Adam and all subsequent accretions. But
There is comfort in pretending,
In imaginative wending,
If such practice means suspending
Self-compassion, and that woozy
Mental state that makes men “foozey.”
There is comfort in the knowing
That your fellow-men are going
In the same direction, sewing
Crops of errors, like “yours truly,”
Which will sprout in ranks unruly.
So let's shelter from our folly
Underneath a common “brolly,”
And pretend we're “awfully jolly,”
For, in spite of dirty weather,
We can all get wet together.
Oh, in rain or sunshine scorchin',
We are fellows in misfortune,
And we've got to take our portion
To the limit of our tether,
So—let's take it all together.
So, dear readers (or reader, as the case may be), if you are a boy scout, a buffalo, an elk, a whelk, a froth-blower, or a “big brother,” stick to your particular accretion of safety-seeking souls, for if love makes the world go round, Society solders the joints.
Larynx is a voice box which shuts up when swallowed.
The heart is over the ribs by the borax.
A fissure is a man who sells fish.page 16