I was watching How I Met Your Mother the other day and the episode called ‘The Mermaid Theory’ was on. Great show by the way. Barney was in Marshal’s office and started talking about how Marshal might become attracted to his very homely secretary. Marshal laughed this off because one, he is very much in love with his wife, and two, his secretary wasn’t very attractive. Barney then goes on to explain the Mermaid Theory which goes as follows; even very unattractive women will become attractive to a man after a certain period of time. It’s called the mermaid theory because Barney made up a story about how fishermen used to be out at sea for long periods of time and they would see these manatees lying on the rocks. After a while however, with the low-level of sexual activity, the manatees started to look like hot fish women.
Here’s a clip of Barney telling the story
Now this is a comedic story commentating on the horndoggery of men, but if we try hard enough, which we always are able to do, we can see how this little story is able to open up a discussion on the creation of faeries. Some people believe that 100% no word of a lie faeries exist and are active in the every day (oh Marshal). A more popular belief in most developed countries is that faeries are mythological beings that are told in fairy tales and (really stretching it here) history/ english class. This would be a theory for the latter group.
If you don’t believe in faeries, you have to wonder how the idea of them came into existence. If you look at almost every culture, at some point or another there was this belief in these supernatural beings that manifested themselves on earth through nature. Faerie is one of the more popular words (as it is the word the English used for them and we were all conquered by the English and now speak their language), but there are many different names and different kinds of beings recognized around the world.
It’s interesting to think that at some point, someone came along and thought that this idea was important. Necessary. Why would thousands upon thousands of people not only believe but live their lives according to the fact that there are magical people who live in trees? Or under mountains? Or in oceans? Maybe it was to discover some truth, understand the rhyme and reason of the universe, to just know more about the earth. Maybe it was to put fear into the people. To keep them safe and out of trouble, to take care of their surroundings. Maybe it was to just have a bond with the universe that could be understood personally, humanized if you will. There are a lot of different theories floating around and a lot of time and paper have gone into trying to understand this fascination, and the seeming necessity of supernatural belief. On a semi related but very much tangential note I read an interesting book a while ago called The Faith Instinct by Nicholas Wade. If you’re interested.
There has always been skepticism with the topic of faeries, or anything requiring faith or belief, magic or miracle, but despite that constant skepticism, that faith and belief is always there, even when you don’t see it. And when you don’t see it is when it’s the most important because it means that it’ is intrinsically a part of you and you’re too close to the situation to notice. This is kind of what I take out of the mermaid theory (in this context). Nothing is ever just as it seems and your mind will always be messing with you, but the degree to which you begin to believe in a fantasy and the context of that fantasy dictates whether or not we think it’s acceptable. If I were to walk into work and tell people I believe in gnomes and nymphs I might be labelled as a person who’s not all there… maybe wasn’t love enough as a child. If I were to listen to someone talk about this ‘mermaid theory’ however, I would be able to relate that experience to how people interact with each other and think to myself, oh man isn’t that guy just an observant son of a gun. Both ideas are talking about the mind recognizing a truth that your eyes may not understand, but only one of the stories would be deemed credible because of the setting and the audience. Something to think about.