Why I Love Jellyfish

The difference between apricots and deep sea cucumbers, and how that reminds me of human ego

Lari Niehl
5 min readDec 11, 2021


Since I can think, not one week passed without me wondering about who I am or what I’m doing here. So as a toddler, before I even knew letters, I identified a sensation and named it the “me-y feeling”. (You can read more about that here.) It’s the impression that occurs when you look into yourself really deeply… really, really, deeply, and look for the core of yourself…

…and then there’s — nothing.

There somehow doesn’t seem to be a pit or core in a person, the way there is in an apricot. Many humans think they have such a core, and they can even speak about it, but maybe that’s something “homemade”, a made-up solid identity, after which you then act accordingly. “I am an artist”, some people might include in that pit, “I am sensitive”, “I am athletic”, “I am quick-witted” or “I am funny”. Less on purpose, also self-images are included that sound more like “I give up easily”, “I am inpatient”, “I am stubborn”, “I am a drama queen” or “I am uncool”.

People end up almost having fun acting out these behavioral patterns. After all, they match their “core”. “That’s just the way I am!”

Hey, if they only knew.

Don’t get me wrong — of course, humans carry repeating behavioral patterns, traits, characters, temperaments, preferences, individual perception patterns, history, conditioning and a lot more stuff.

The question is just whether you view those things as permanent; something that belongs to you, makes you who you are, something that should always stay this way, something you need in order to be, or at least to be you.

Seeing them as that will stop you from

  • shape-shifting
  • reflecting
  • adapting
  • growing
  • iterating
  • changing paths
  • relaxing and accepting whatever way you show up

And will make you

  • cling to an identification
  • defend yourself
  • prove yourself
  • stick to un-fun patterns
  • stay small
  • think small
  • fight back and resist change.

The problem is, that humans are literally scared to death of losing their “core”. Who will I be, if I no longer have a solid character? A Nobody, right? Then I’ll be useless, an empty skin, and I might as well die.

To me, it’s like this: Yes, you might start out being an empty skin. But my god, the things that can flow through an “empty skin”, as soon as it’s actually empty for once! Thoughts, emotions, energy, visions, insights, realizations, love, compassion …

That’s why I don’t picture us humans like a piece of stone fruit, something with a solid core, but rather like this:

“These types of deep-sea sea cucumbers have soft, translucent bodies through which the filled intestines can be seen.” Source

Focusing on our learning and shape-shifting skills instead of our “solid core”

Doesn’t such a being have a completely different existence in this world from a piece of stone fruit? With a creature like this, you can see things which are inside them, but aren’t part of them. Their bodies are “gelatinous”, fluid in their form. And depending on the light they break and reflect, their appearance is a different one. They have little “solid” about them — and yet, it appears they’re not dead. On the contrary, in their vulnerability, their adaptivity and shapeshifting skills, they remind me of the most lively among us humans.

And now just imagine what would happen if such a being happens to swallow a thick pit! Everything is blocked, jammed. Nothing can flow anymore, and the creature has to lug around this pit everywhere it goes. Everyday deep sea life will become taxing and backbreaking. The poor creature might die soon from pure exhaustion. It can no longer adapt, camouflage or hide — bigger animals will find it and eat it…

You get the point. Maybe it would do us good to look at what we carry inside us, be transparent about it towards ourselves, without treating it as anything permanent or solid. To let things pass through us and to be okay being empty of thoughts and identifications for a sec. A person who before thought “I am sensitive” can still observe that they on average have a rather sensitive nervous system, but they can also do something really reckless — something that could seem out of role, atypical. Isn’t that how we grow? Thinking, feeling and acting differently from the way we did before. Embracing the new, not just in the external world, but also accepting us to be new every moment.

Instead of carrying a packet of “I am like that”-beliefs around and showing up in a consistent (stagnating) way everywhere, every time, why don’t we try being a new creature, a new shape each moment we’re awake, reacting and adapting intelligently to our surroundings, looking at what’s inside us and passing through us, without believing it’s us, or that it has to stay there.

Once you’re like a jellyfish, once you’re empty, and the system is unclogged, so much amazing stuff can flow through — and you’ll be the opposite of boring, the opposite of a “pale character”, the opposite of dead, the opposite of a Nobody — just nobody concrete. Someone very much alive, someone with endless ways of showing up, with endless potential, someone overflowing with love and other important things, breathing life in and out as if it was the easiest and most natural thing.

Salps are transparent organisms with soft, gelatinous bodies that occur individually or in colonies in warmer ocean waters. Source



Lari Niehl

artist, dancer, designer. slightly autistic. i love motorbikes. humans are super beautiful to me. www.lariniehl.com