February 16, 2020
Have you ever seen a jellyfish in the wild? I’ve spotted big flocks of these floating animals during the late summer days whilst being carried on soft waves in my kajak. Moved only by the streams near the surface, I started to wonder: How would it be to perceive life as a jellyfish?
During the warm summer months
Aurelia Aurita, the jellyfish common to the Baltic Sea, stay deep down, near the bottom of the sea, invisible for us, who are trapped to boats or other dry surfaces. But later in the year, around August and September, they rise closer to the surface to breed, revealing their existence to us. But what makes jellyfish extremely interesting is that their existence is so different from ours. There is something extraterrestrial to them: A recent study, for example, found that Aurelia Aurita is capable of lifecycle reversal — individuals grow younger instead of older.
This somehow indicates how our common idea of life being a linear time-frame is a big (and possibly dangerous) misconception. Whether we think of life from the perspective of an individual, culture, economics or even the planet, there is really no beginning or end.
No matter how different, we are still part of the same ecosystem with jellyfish. And as we painfully come to realise, there are major issues, real problems, concerning the environment where I and the jellyfish live. What our species is doing and how we are acting has a tremendous effect not only on human life but also the life of jellyfish. And again, what will happen to the jellyfish, as an effect of human actions, will have an effect on human life. It is a down-cycle caused by us and our actions accelerating every minute.
Our problems, the climate crisis and mass extinction we see around us, is also affecting jellyfish.
And their looming extinction again becomes my problem. The same applies on the dry land within different human actions that I would rather not like to be identified with: resource exhaustion by excessive agriculture, mining, and over-fishing, financial purely profit-oriented speculations in businesses, as well as cultural and political struggles are not challenges limited to these specific areas, rather they are our, my problems and therefore problems for the jellyfish.
The only significant difference between me and the jellyfish is, that we, as a species, cause these problems all the while being aware of it and its consequences, making us, me, somehow responsible. So, while it is my responsibility to work on these problems, jellyfish continue to float, breed, and slowly change and adapt.
Being a human, in the sense of being able to anticipate consequences and thus being responsible to take action requires a lot of effort and change. This is where I sometimes wish to be a jellyfish.
Thinking of the life of a jellyfish and human influences on underwater life, has been one of the starting points for creating our “How long is a wave?” -collection. The bell-like figure of a jellyfish, Aurelia Aurita (Korvameduusa), has been the main influence for the balloon sleeved Aurelia dresses and jackets of the collection.
Text by Mila Moisio