This fellow John Endler teaches biology at UC Santa Barbara. No doubt thousands of students remember him for tales of chalk and euglena, but he has a deeper claim to fame.
In the 1970s, he found a breed of livebearer in a small lake in Venezuela. It had coloring something like a wild guppy, but was, in the long run, quite distinct from a wild guppy. The fish is now called "Endler's Livebearer".
Dr. Endler reports that when he sees pictures of "his" livebearer (actually, the fish had been "discovered" by science 40 years prior, but the common name "stuck' as his), the supposed Endler's livebearers are now cross-bred with domestic guppies. Poecilid livebearers have a way of inter-breeding that would, among humans, amalgamate the world's religions into one wonderful kind of skeptically blessed universalism, and further end hunger and war in our time.
I read a lot of websites today about southern Oklahoma, a land of trees and many lakes, to which I want to retreat for a leisure weekend again soon. I saw a parcel of 1,000 acres, on sale for 300,000 dollars. I cannot afford Oklahoma rolling hills timberland, but won't you come along with me to a Wild Guppy Farm?
At Wild Guppy Farm, dozens of geodisic buildings (all visionary/cult organizations need to use geodisic domes) house tens of thousands of tanks of guppies, platies, swordtails, goodeids, gambusia [all sorts] and mollies. In other words, it's a livebearing fish fanciers' dreams. This is a "no cull" shelter, in which no fish is destroyed or fed to other fish solely to improve the genetic strain of a breeding project. Mr. Mendel is not on the premises. At Wild Guppy Farm, fish are raised for the sheer joy of being fish.
If I could meet John Endler, I'd invite him to Wild Guppy Farm. I'd encourage him to seed tanks with the livebearer named for him, and let them breed and grow and thrive and dance.
In Wild Guppy Farm, the workers toil in shifts from 8 to 2 and 2 to 8. They guide tourists through the tank rooms, giving lectures about important topics like "Wild Guppies and You" and "Every Ditch is a Microcosm of Livebearing Beauty". In the evenings, a video of live-bearing fish at play in the wild is projected onto an overhead screen made out of milk cartons, just like the planetarium made of milk cartons at Southern Arkansas University. In October, a Harvest Festival features guppy scarecrows made of straw, while in the Yule season, holly wreaths decorated with hand-carved leaping broadtailed fish festoon everything. The Spring Guppy Social draws all the area singles.
At Wild Guppy Farm, swift boats are never employed. The television is off, except for shows involving fish which are not natural predators of the guppy. The Wild Guppy Gift Shop sells DVDs entitled "Guppies at play", as well as eye-opening doucmentaries about how landfills sometimes cover over guppy ditches.
Children love Wild Guppy Farm, where they are permitted to just arrive and be entranced by swimming fish. There are always guppies to be fed, and if kids still can't tap the tank, they can tap their toes to the sounds of guppy merengue floating lightly from the sound systems. Everywhere guppies are placed out for adoption, because guppies are not like stars, merely for gazing, but like friends, for having and keeping. The volunteers quiz prospective owners on nitrogen levels and flake food portions. A dozen guppies cost a dollar, unless one does not have a dollar, then they are free.
Kites festooned with redtail platies fly in the sky in the open fields, while
kids' school sketches line the walls, saying "I never knew what fun a guppy could be until I visited the Wild Guppy Center!". Fund-raising is never a problem, because all the lobbying organizations, upon being shown this good work, abandoned talk of friendships with Saudis and weapons of mass destruction, and instead funded a perpetual guppy endowment.
Some people imagine Wild Guppy Farm is utopian or unrealistic, but they have not come to appreciate that guppies are evolution's answer to cynicism of every kind.
Even their rabid cannibal tendencies teach us that everyone can get over, and for that matter, devour one's fears.
Theologians, shocked by the lack of answers in this very modern world, come to Wild Guppy Farm and realize that they've forgotten the questions. On cool October evenings, when a distant owl sometimes can be heard, wild rabbits trim the undergrowth around the farm buildings, dreaming pacific nightdreams about a time when science nurtures things and lets them live free.
I grant you that Wild Guppy Farm is but a barely formed fantasy, far less realistic than most fantasies. The story of the west, by the way, is the story of failed utopian community after failed utopian community, with a few exceptional succesful ones.
But in my mind, there's a place where things are just allowed to be, and that being itself is a good thing. I call my place Wild Guppy Farm.
Will you join me there?