Love Song of the Involute Shell

amy godliman involuteshell.jpg

Illustration by Amy C Godliman

Originally published here

"Our love was written long ago, my dear," said the captain to his mermaid lass, but speaking to the horizon, "in the shells and chambers of the deep." 


He puffed his pipe. "As a young skipper upon these waters, I used to fear the churning sea. She seemed to me unending in her heartlessness and indifference — the dull repetition of wave after wave! She would swallow us and we, too, would be reduced to nothingness, another temporary speck in the mighty blue. The older I have grown, however, the more I see in her the patterns of love. Yes, my dear, love! A love as deep as the ocean herself." 


He gazed out at the setting sun. "Imagine, if you will, life in prehistoric times. Imagine a terrifying abyss of chaos — amoebae splitting and mutating without order, currents without continents to curb them. Pure chaos! A world in constant upheaval!" 


He glared, with great purpose, at the repeating waves. "But formlessness needs form to guide it, else it shall continue to mutate without end. And so, out of necessity, came shells! Protective shapes to shape the shapeless, outer bones to bind the boneless! Beginning at the smallest point, a core of simplicity, began a shell, a shell which through maturation birthed additional septa. So grew this shell, logarithmically, towards a living chamber, and hence the cephalopod. Life is built in simple steps, you see."


He puffed again on his pipe. "It has seemed to me that life is written by a single rule: reproduction. That is why the waves give birth to waves, and why our time upon this blue beast in so small a wooden craft will one day, to our children's children, be a footnote; we are mere ancestors already." 


He smiled to a flock of seagulls flying in sync overhead. "But, Captain — you must be thinking — is not this the same meaninglessness you so feared? Is not this unending reproduction but sister to the ocean's monotony? Perhaps — but I prefer to think of it differently. For does this pattern not manifest itself in so infinite a variety of shapes? The world is not monotonous, but a complexity of endlessly beautiful variations on a single principle! And that principle, my dear, is love. Love, the ever-beating heart of the whole; love, the common factor between opposites; love, the simple origin point that births the world!"


He outstretched his arms to the horizon. "For is it not love between man and woman that creates each and everyone one of us? Was it not with love that God created out of shapeless sand the first human upon this earth? Is it not love that connects contraries, love that warms us in the harsh winter, love that seems, by my reckoning, to be the final conclusion of every creed, belief, and wish?"


He put his arm around his mermaid lass. "And so like the nautilus, my dear, we are formed from the beginning by this simple rule, and no matter how long and windy our road, however complicated our union, you shall trace in our stages the same lovely pattern, and you shall arrive, after so many revolutions, at a single starting point: love. What say you, my fair maiden?"


The mermaid shrugged. "You're weird," she said, and dove into the sea.