By Benny Callaghan, Minnesota
A friend once gave me a plant as a gift and said, “First, you need to learn to look after a plant; then, you graduate to an animal; and finally, you will be ready for a child.”
She knew me well. This lifetime I would need a progressive approach to developing responsibility in caring for others. I had succeeded with my low-maintenance bamboo plant. Now, as a full-fledged, responsible adult, it was time to get my first animal.
My good friend Crary inspired me to get a fish. For some people fish are an easy animal to look after, as feeding can be relatively simple, and you don’t need to take them for walks. They can also handle being left on their own while you are at work. All in all, it seemed like a good choice.
Crary and I each bought a betta fish. She called hers Matthew; mine was McConaughey.
Betta fish are flamboyantly beautiful—they have striking colors and fins that fan about. McConaughey was quite the charmer. He loved swimming to the side of the bowl when I entered the room. And it wasn’t one-sided when I’d chat with him; McConaughey was always responsive to me.
While fish may be easy pets to care for, they are also incredibly sensitive. They like a clean and stable environment without big fluctuations in temperature. A tropical fish living in Minnesota probably acutely feels heat or cold.
As a fish parent, one of my responsibilities was to change the water in McConaughey’s bowl in a way that he wouldn’t notice the difference. To do so properly is an act that requires absolute attention and surgical precision.
One time after I changed his water, McConaughey loved it. For the first twenty-four hours, he darted around his underwater landscape, having a great old time. Then he started to noticeably slow down. My housemate became alarmed that McConaughey might not be doing well.
Within a few hours, McConaughey was floating on his side at the top of the bowl. He still breathed and moved ever so slightly, but it looked like the end was nigh.
There wasn’t a fish veterinarian I could take him to, so I searched online for clues about what I could do to help him. I didn’t want to make further adjustments to his bowl, as he’d already had too much stress.
When I went to bed that night, before falling asleep I sang HU, a sacred sound and ancient mantra that opens one’s consciousness to a higher realm of spiritual reality. That night, I dreamed that a group of my friends, who had all met McConaughey, gathered around the fishbowl. They sang HU while writing messages of love on his bowl with colorful pens.
HU is a nondirected, sacred love song to God. It’s a way of saying, “Thy will be done” and receiving support to accept the outcome.
The next morning I awoke with a peaceful feeling in my heart even though I was convinced I would walk downstairs to find McConaughey floating on top of the bowl. To my shock and delight I found him darting around, back to his usual self.
This experience was a wonderful demonstration of the power of HU to transform and heal. I had sung HU with no set intentions. I only wanted what was best for McConaughey. In this instance, it was his turn for a healing. My friends, gathering around in my dream to write messages of love, showed me that love is the true healer.
—Photo by Benny Callaghan