Sunday, March 20, 2005

I, Exocoetidae

For about a year now, I've been teaching an adult Sunday school class at an English-language church near Osan Air Base. Given its location, the church serves a lot of people connected to the U.S. military, so the congregation is always in flux as tours of duty begin or end and as contracts are approved, renewed, rejected, or even cancelled. The previous teacher had to leave, no new teacher stepped forward, the pastor at that time discovered that I have some learning in Greek and Hebrew . . . and I found myself a Sunday school teacher.

I'd never done this before, but I took to it as a fish takes to air.

I mean a flying fish.

Flying fish don't really fly, I'm told. People claim it's more of a gliding. But according to a certain online source, flying fish "can glide as far as 100 metres and as high as one metre above the surface of the water." That seems rather far just for gliding, and the mechanics involved make the process sound remarkably like flying:

"The enlarged lower lobe of the tail acts like an outboard motor, the speedy sideways motion of the tail allows the fish to gain height from the surface of the water, and extend the flight time."

It seems to me that this fish is propelling itself through the air. Isn't that flying rather than gliding?

I ask because . . . yes, I am that fish. I submerge myself in the biblical currents, dart among the passages with my school of student fish, pick up speed as I gain confidence, then burst from the surface and fly gloriously through the bright air jabbering (that's right, I'm a talking flying fish) about Milton's clever exegesis of temptation in Paradise Lost, Derrida's unexpected remarks on the Christian God watching secretly in The Gift of Death, or Karl Barth's relentless dismantling of theological liberalism in The Epistle to the Romans . . . only to crash back into the water, temporarily incapable of propelling myself further.

The Osan Airmen are not impressed.


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