Tara's Thoughts


Posted on: January 20, 2016

This is an excerpt from Tara’s upcoming book Speaking Truth; Words that Matter written with and about co-author, John Glass. More details can be found at www.SpeakingTruthTheBook.com


“A bird may love a fish but where would they build a home together?”

When the question is about life choices there is usually more than one right answer. Case in point: Bird on a spiral fuzzy edges

One of my very favorite Broadway musicals is Fiddler On The Roof.   I have always felt it is one of the better written scripts in the vast Broadway repertoire. Every word of every line of dialogue and every lyric of every song is there for a reason. There is always a nugget of a story to tell or a window into the mind or soul of a character. Or, as is so often the case with Jewish material, there is a lesson to teach.

 That is not to say every point of view in the story is agreeable. When his young daughter falls in love with a man outside of their faith Tevye says to her, “A bird may love a fish but where would they build a home together?” This one line has always stood out to me as slightly disturbing. He is trying to tell her that their differences are too great to overcome. After all, a bird cannot swim (unless it is a duck. See what I mean?). A fish cannot fly (well, OK. There is one species that can. But we’re looking at this particular quote here). A bird cannot live underwater. A fish cannot breathe out of the water. How could they share a life? It seems, on the face of it, to be a practical statement of a physical limitation.

 But when you take a deeper look what you might find is a limitation in thinking and an intolerance for choices that do not mirror your own. Stick to your own kind. Take the easy route. Don’t make the neighbors uncomfortable. It never occurs to Tevye that some form of cohabitation different than his own traditional choice might be a better fit for someone else.

 Yes, most birds live in the trees and fish live underwater. But songbirds come to the pond in my backyard and sit at the water’s edge. They drink, bathe, rest and sometimes seem to be looking into the pond to see what may be under the water’s surface.

 I question even the notion of the bird and the fish being so very different from each other. Look at the photo on this page. Both bird and fish have round bodies, pointed mouths, round eyes and tails. They both spend their day foraging for food. Traveling around their environments and resting in the sun.

 And, perhaps, even their differences are a benefit to our very non-traditional partners. The bird’s song can speak for the mute fish. The fish provides a stable home-base for the adventuring bird to return to.

bird and fish w shadow

 That may not seem like enough to some. Well, then, you’ve made your choice. But to say that no other choice is acceptable, or even possible, is to deny others the right to choose what is best for them.    You may decide that you can’t live without a swimming partner. Others might be content to coexist in the same back yard.

Fiddler On The Roof opened on Broadway in 1964. And yet, more than 50 years later, the analysis of this world view is just as relevant. In the past 50 years we have seen overwhelming amounts of inhumane treatment and intolerance justified by our “differences”. We have seen ever growing amounts of environmental degradation justified by corporate greed and the notion that those “other” people don’t matter. If they knew what was good for them they’d be living like us!

Growing gun violence. Open hate speech. Devaluing of entire groups of people based on race, gender, sexual orientation or economic status. All because we are taught to fear each other’s differences.

And we all breathe the same air.

Wouldn’t it be a nicer world if we all remembered that? After all, flowers come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some need a full day of sun. Other varieties thrive in the shade. Is a lily really more “correct” than a sunflower?











2 Responses to "LIVE AND LET LIVE"

Tara, Very nice! Love, Sheryl

Liked by 1 person

Thank you, Sheryl! I’ve learned a lot watching the birdie visitors that come to hang out in my backyard.


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Tara Sitser - Leadership Member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Project

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