Riding the Tide: Life Lessons from the Jellies

Jellyfish (or jellies, as scientists tend to prefer) are the most energy-efficient swimmers in the sea.  For the most part, they depend upon the ocean to carry them where they need to go — or to bring the things they need to them. Their practically non-existent gelatinous bodies simply float along, surrendering to the power of the ocean currents all around them.

Jellyfish Pacific Sea Nettle Ripley's Aquarium

Those gelatinous bodies are both a blessing and a curse.  Their skin is so thin that they can simply absorb oxygen instead of breathing, and their long trailing tentacles act as drift nets, collecting any edibles they come across (and giving them a little sting if need be!); that said, their bodies are about 95% water — meaning that not only do they tear easily, but if removed from their native habitat they die almost instantly.

Mostly though, they just float.

Jellyfish Pacific Sea Nettle Ripley's Aquarium

They may, however, need to make the occasional course correction.  To move, they expand and contract their bodies; the contraction pushes the jellyfish forward, and upon release the jelly’s bell sucks in more water which bounces off of the body and creates a second bonus push.

At the Aquarium today I was hanging out in the Jellyfish Encounter, a dim and rather meditative spot in the midst of the swirling eddies of excited schoolchildren and harried parents and resigned employees.  As I stood watching the jellies drift dreamily through their tank, it occurred to me that I could learn a few lessons from jellyfish.

Jellyfish Pacific Sea Nettle Ripley's Aquarium

Have a little faith in the world around you – what you need is out there and some of it is bound to come your way.

If it does, be open to it – allow it to soak into you, to nourish you and keep you moving forward.

If it doesn’t, reach for it – the tiniest movement in the right direction will multiply and push you farther than you could have imagined possible.


And every once in a while, you might need to administer a well-placed sting.  😉


A special thank you to our models, the Pacific Sea Nettles of Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto ON!  Photography by tK.

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