Fish Can’t Climb Trees

Review by Iris Schencks
Review by Iris Schencks

The premise of Helyn Connerr’s Mercury Model™ is that everyone’s brain is wired differently and we can discover more about ‘our unique mental make-up’, by evaluating how ‘we each experience the mythic theme of the ancient god Mercury’. Her book Fish Can’t Climb Trees is her most recent exposition of this model. Its title, taken from a quote attributed to Albert Einstein … ‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’, suggests we should value and develop our own unique abilities and strengths and not be judged according to the criteria, interests or expectations of others.

fishcantIn the main body of the book, Helyn explains how to capitalise on our ‘own unique wiring’ and improve the way we learn and communicate by identifying twelve ‘Fundamental Learning Styles’. Although these are presented as rather quirky ‘characters’, they clearly correspond to the planet Mercury through the different signs of the zodiac. For example in Scout, the Trailblazer’ we recognise its placement in Aries, followed by Steady, the Vault’, Buzz, the Curious’ and so on, through to ‘Sonar, The Intuitive’ in Pisces. Each ‘character’s’ inherent mental traits and basic motivations are discussed in detail, with concrete suggestions given of how their learning ability can be enhanced. For those unfamiliar with their chart, their ‘Fundamental Learning Style’ can be found in a simplified ‘ephemeris’ at the end of the book.

Acknowledging that we are unlikely to wholly fit into one of these distinct categories, Helyn introduces more levels of subtlety which astrologers will recognise as the Modes and Elements. She explains that each learning type also belongs to two family groups, and that being an Initiator’, ‘Sustainer’ or ‘Adaptor’ and a member of a Fire’, ‘Air’, ‘Earth’ or ‘Water’ family, provides further complexity.

Similarities and differences of learning style within partnerships, families and groups are explored in the chapter ‘Getting Along With Each Other’, with examples and short case studies showing how the latter can sometimes lead to misunderstanding, tension or conflict. Helyn suggests that by using the Mercury Model™ we can learn to identify, understand and appreciate these differences, and work more positively and successfully together.

Her final chapter explores the theory underpinning her model and puts it into a wider astrological context. Among her ideas is that there is a ‘subtle dynamic energy principle associated with the features of levity, agility and quickness’. She explains that these qualities can be glimpsed in the element quicksilver, in music, literature, the animal world, the organs of the human body and in the archetypal qualities of the planet Mercury.

Helyn has a background in physical and nuclear chemistry and her interest in the subtle energies linking body, mind and spirit and astrological knowledge is clear. Fish Can’t Climb Trees has a very light touch, making her ideas readily accessible and it is intriguing to follow the ‘mercurial’ and inventive way she explores the different ways we process information, communicate and relate to others. My thoughts are that although astrological knowledge gives its content more meaning, this book is likely to appeal more to the self-help market than to serious astrologers. However astrology students will find it a useful example of how to express planetary energies without using too much jargon.

Nonetheless, any book that supports the process of self-understanding and self-development and encourages ‘right human relations’ has value. Particularly in these troubled times, the title alone reminds us not to measure others by our own yardstick but to show greater understanding and tolerance of the different ways our individual minds work and how we subsequently communicate and behave. As Helyn aptly writes, ‘Can you imagine the benefit to all our relationships if communication is clear and supportive, based on mutual understanding and respect for natural differences?’