The Pout-Pout Fish
By Deborah Diesen
Mr. Fish, aka The Pout-Pout fish, lives with a constant pout on his face. He always seems to be sad and frowning, and his fish friends certainly notice. Octopi, clams, and other various sea critters all tell him to smile a little and be happy, but the Pout-Pout fish claims that this is just the way he is. Then, all of a sudden, his frown is turned upside-down after he is kissed by a shimmering silver fish. After he is kissed, the Pout-Pout fish becomes the Kiss-Kiss fish, giving all of his sea friends kisses and making everyone as happy as he is. The themes presented in the tale of the Pout-Pout fish are related to happiness, purpose and meaningfulness. This book asks a series of important questions including: What is happiness? Is it okay to not feel happy? Is it more important to have a happy life or meaningful life? Is it more important to be happy or have a purpose? How imperative is it to have a purpose with meaning?
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Tristan Leigh and Sally Donovan
This book explores many facets of happiness such as, what does it mean to be happy? Are we in control of our own happiness? Through these questions, the book allows for discussion about happiness and the role of will and circumstance in shaping this emotion. In the beginning of the book, Mr. Fish is sad and spreads “dreary-wearies all over the place”. Despite these emotions, it remains unclear to the reader why Mr. Fish feels this way, and it appears he is even unsure himself. In response to the octopus, who asks him why he is so sad, Mr. Fish responds that he has no choice because he is a pout-pout fish. That is just the way he is. Is Mr. Fish sad because of his pouting face? Or is there is something else causing him to feel sad? Is Mr. fish truly destined to be sad? Or is it a matter of circumstance? Through these questions, this book creates space to discuss the reasons behind happiness and sadness in order to better understand these complex emotions.
In addition to Mr. Fish’s sadness, the other fish don’t understand his emotions and exclude him because of this. The jellyfish, squid, and octopus all complain that Mr. Fish mopes too much. Is it okay for the sea creatures to expect Mr. Fish to be happy when he is not? Is it okay for Mr. Fish to not feel happy? These types of questions delve further into the role of well-being and happiness in personal relationships. For Mr. Fish, the sea creatures attempt to prevent, correct, or mitigate his sadness and assume it is a generally undesirable trait to be sad. However, this approach isolates Mr. Fish, which presumably furthers his sadness. What would be a better path of action for the sea creatures to take? How can the sea creatures take better care of their friend? These questions can be used to open up discussion regarding personal relationships hindered by the challenges facing a friend.
Purpose and Meaningfulness
In the second half of the book, Mr. Fish is kissed by the Silver Fish and transforms into a happy, kissing fish with a purpose of making everyone else feel better with one of his joyous kisses. This transformation as a result of the kiss seems to make his life much better. One of the thoughts that come to mind when reflecting on this transformation is whether Mr. Fish’s life is better because he is happy or because he now has a purpose in life. This book allows for a facilitated discussion and debate about happiness versus purpose. Is it important for the Pout-Pout fish to be happy, or is it more important that he now has a purpose? And what is the connection between the two? Can someone be happy without a purpose? Or have a purpose, but not be happy?
This book also asks the important question of what role purpose plays in having a meaningful life and whether a purpose needs to be meaningful or not. Some may believe that the Pout-Pout fish’s life seems to go from having no meaning to being meaningful after finding his purpose. Others may disagree and claim that his purpose is meaningless. This debate asks the important question of whether it is up to you or someone else to decide if your purpose is meaningful or worthwhile. Many activities can seem like a waste of time if one focuses on it, but perhaps it is a matter of perspective and how it affects people’s lives differently. For example, a man who spends his life counting all the blades of grass on his lawn may seem like he has a pointless purpose, but it may be completely meaningful to him or maybe even some others who know him to count all the blades of grass on his lawn. Considering this, we can begin to think about what makes a purpose worthwhile and meaningful. Does his purpose even need to have meaning? Hopefully, through this book, we can produce a productive conversation about purpose and meaningfulness.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
Purpose and Meaningfulness