V for Peace
“We come in peace,” said the teacher, making her fingers into a V for her young students as they approached the Touch Pool. “Use just two fingers to touch the animals.”
This week during my guide shift at the Monterey Bay Aquarium I got a brief reprieve from my post-election despair. For my half hour at the Touch Pool I could set aside my fear for our nation and instead help little kids touch sea stars and decorator crabs. Good therapy, to see so much hope and smiles and curiosity. “Are they real? Are they alive?” the kids asked. Happy proud parent chaperones shared in the delight and the touching. (MBA welcomes 80,000 school kids free each year, building a new generation of ocean stewards.)
How should we touch other real live animals? If you’ve seen the terrifying touch pool scene in “Finding Dory” you know that touching with one finger encourages dangerous poking, and that using your whole hand can quickly do even more damage; detaching or lifting the critter out of its life-giving water home. No, the best way is with the gentle V, two fingers and let them be where they are.
A life lesson? A touch pool gospel? Touch others only gently, where they are, no poking, no grabbing.
And touch others in peace.
(I heard that teacher’s words, “We come in peace,” years ago, and I use the phrase with kids every Thursday. But only today did I research the phrase and the V sign. Nixon used Churchill’s V for Victory sign during Vietnam, and at his resignation, but 60’s peace activists (like me) successfully coopted it into a peace sign. Is it also related to the Vulcan double V “Live long and prosper” - which we know from Nimoy is a religious gesture? How about the phrase “We come in peace?” That’s usually said by movie aliens who are anything but peaceful. Are kids like aliens to the touch pool critters? Perhaps. Was the teacher an old hippie, or maybe a Trekkie? Whatever, the sentiment and the sign work – peace to all creation.)
Over the years the Aquarium has built lower exhibits to encourage interaction and to help “tactile learners” make more connections. Instead of distant objectification, we can touch, relate, engage.
But only if we do so gently, in peace, with respect. I’m hoping these kids grow up to build that kind of world. And vote for it. That would be a big V victory.