Hi there. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our book Ocean Metaphor: Unexpected Life Lessons from the Sea. We’d like to give you an idea of who we are and why we created Ocean Metaphor.
We have a love of nature, and a deep appreciation for the underwater world. We aren’t marine biologists. We’re just a couple of curious people with a thing for water. At early ages we put on diving masks and poked our heads under the surface of the sea and discovered a wondrous place. We’ve been wondering about it ever since.
As kids we each fancied becoming marine scientists. In fact, Gui’s first job was as an assistant to Professor Victor Almada, who created the Center of Bio-Sciences at the University of Ispa in Lisbon, Portugal. While his assistant, Gui co-authored a paper on the territorial mating behavior of a tiny bottom-dwelling fish called Parablennius pilicornis, which earned him a scholarship to Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography. But fate intervened and charted him a career as a scuba diving instructor and yacht captain. Cathryn’s story is pretty similar. As a university student intent on studying psychology she signed up for a scuba diving course as an elective. Her first breaths underwater inspired her to switch from academic to aquatic pursuits, also becoming a scuba instructor and later a writer and editor of scuba diving publications. We’ve spent most of our lives working on or in the water. While we didn’t end up with marine science degrees, we consider ourselves lifelong students of the sea.
We also consider ourselves anthropomorphists. Anthropomorphism is simply the attribution of human traits, emotions or intentions to non-human entities. We’ve spent countless hours underwater, observing marine life in a variety of aquatic environments all over the world. We’ve witnessed certain qualities, or aspects of their behavior that are similar to our own. We’ve observed what we identify as devotion between a blind shrimp and a little fish called a shrimp goby, and we’ve seen a sarcastic fringehead pitch what looked like an ego-driven hissy fit. We’ve watched dolphins’ joyful game playing as they passed a bit of seaweed around just for the fun of it. We’re thrilled to share our observations with you.
Ocean Metaphor is a collection of stories about these and other marine creatures. We offer some interesting facts about the sea creatures featured in this book, and we share extraordinary photos—our own, and those contributed by friends who are among the world’s finest underwater photographers—so you can know their beauty, and appreciate their uniqueness. We also invite you to imagine how these creatures’ subaquatic lives and experiences might in some way mirror our own.
Our emotive way of experiencing the underwater world isn’t new. And it isn’t unique. Researchers identify both anthropomorphism and personification—the attribution of human form and characteristics to abstract concepts and non-human entities—to be innate tendencies of human psychology. Both anthropomorphism and personification have roots that reach deep into the bedrock of human existence as storytelling and artistic devices. Practically every culture has folklore that features animals exhibiting human traits and emotions, and stories or songs about non-living characters such as the wind and seas carrying out human behaviors.
Our career swerves away from academia may have worked in our favor, because science has a long history of shaming and shunning those who even hint that animals might be capable of exhibiting emotions like joy and empathy and grief. For this reason we’d probably have sucked as marine scientists, anyway.
The stories you’ll read in Ocean Metaphor aren’t written to convince you of anything. Our desire is that this collection of stories and photos will spark your imagination and inspire you to experience the underwater environment—and the terrestrial world, too—as a metaphor for your life—a way to consider your own thoughts and emotions, your personal struggles and triumphs. We want you to feel deeply connected to the world around you, to nature and to the people and the non-human beings that inhabit our planet.
We’re all in this world together. The shrimp goby, the blind shrimp, the shark and the sea star. And us. We all belong. As you experience Ocean Metaphor for yourself, we hope you’ll feel inspired to act in ways that enrich your life and help make our world a better place.