By Theresa King
Once there was a little fish that lived with a school of family and friends near the pink coral reef, behind the great, black sides of a sunken ship. She was a curious fish, happy to swim in the clear, cold water, happy to eat and sleep and play with the others, but she was also full of questions, full of that nagging feeling that there is much more to know.
One day as the school was leisurely gliding though some long, green algae, the little fish overheard two old fish talking about something called “the ocean.” The work made her little heart burn with excitement. She swam close to the pair of elders and asked, ‘What’s the ocean?”
“The ocean?” answered one, “Why it’s the most wonderful thing in all the world. It’s something vast, way beyond us. But you’re too young to be asking questions like that.” And the old fish swam quickly away.
The other elder was annoyed. He turned his cold eyes on the little fish and said, “Why talk about something that does not exist? As far as I am concerned, the ocean is a myth, just a myth. But the little fish knew in her bones that the ocean existed. She just knew it. So she went to her mother.
“The ocean?” her mother repeated, “the ocean is a great mystery that the old ones talk about sometimes. But why do you ask about things you can never know? It would be better if you worried about something more useful.”
Her father did not chase her away. He cleared his throat and stammered, “Ah! Well the ocean. Ah! I have heard that it holds treasures undreamed of, that it is far away in some beautiful, unreachable place, but no one has ever been there.”
The head of the school insisted that if the young fish did everything she was told, followed all the rules given by her elders, and lived a good life, perhaps after her death she might get a glimpse of the ocean.
Next the little fish went to her grandmother. “The ocean, dear? Well, it is almost too much to imagine! It is the cause of all life, the cause of all death. It gives us everything we have; it takes away whatever it will. But my dear, no one knows where it is.”
Grandfather spoke slowly and carefully. “I have heard the ocean is full of darkness,” he said “but also full of light. Once, long ago, I overheard a whale whispering to his partner that the ocean was the source of existence. It sounds like a wonderful thing, but no one has ever seen it.”
The days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, the months into years, and the little fish grew up. She had babies of her own, swam miles and miles with the school, but now she kept all her questions about the ocean locked deep in her heart.
One day, finding herself alone, she swam to the far side of the old ship, wiggled into the sand against a rock, and began to think. She realized that she had wanted to find the ocean for a long, long time, but she had failed. She thought that she should end her quest because the flame in her heart, once a bright, burning fire, was now almost extinguished by despair. The tears rolled down her face and splashed on the rock.
“Why are you crying?” asked a deep, soft voice. The fish looked up into the warmest, darkest eyes she had ever seen. They were the eyes of an old octopus, almost hidden behind the leaves and rocks.
“Oh sir,” answered the fish. “I’m sorry to disturb you. I came here to think and I’m very sad because I’ve been searching for something my whole life, and now I’m afraid that I’ll never find it.”
“What is it you are searching for?” he asked.
“I know it’s impossible” she whispered back, “but I’m looking for the ocean.”
The wise, old octopus smiled, nodded his head, and moved closer to the fish. “Oh child,” he said, “you are in the ocean right now! The ocean is all around you, it is that in which you live and swim, that in which you move and breathe, the matrix out of which your body was formed and into which it will return. You have been searching for that which you have always had. Be happy and know that you are part of that greatness which you desire.”
Many of us are just like that little fish, searching and searching for God. We know in our hearts that God exists, that God is near, but somehow all the answers given by others to our questions do not satisfy us. We do not want to wait until we die to find God; we do not really believe that we are too young, too small, too stupid, too arrogant, too sinful. We want to find the divine now, right now, because without god our lives mean little. It is difficult to acknowledge that the octopus could really be right. Is it possible that what we have been searching for has been inundating us all along?
They tell us the same extraordinary truth. God is within us, without us, all around us, in everything we look upon, everything we touch, everything we love, everything we fight with, are annoyed by, are stunned by. God Is. That is all. We don’t want to admit the truth of these things because we don’t what to acknowledge our own greatness. If I am a fish swimming in God, breathing God, eating God, birthing God, then I must be wonderful indeed! There is the rub. We have far too long believed that we are small, unimportant, stupid, sinful, prideful, imperfect, ugly, guilty fish, so how could we possibly be swimming in the divine ocean?
Someone has told us lies about ourselves; that someone has been told lies about herself by someone else who was also told lies about herself. Perhaps it is time for the lies to stop?
The biggest problem of saints and sages over millennia is convincing their students that the students are divine beings. They refuse to believe it because the message does not match their own experience. Why not? Because they have not been treated as divine beings.
That is why the wise ones meditate. In the midst of all the practices of sitting and breathing and remembering, and witnessing and focusing, we will eventually enter a realm of total silence. There, all things not divine will drop away, and we will be face to face with the very core of our being. There we will be stunned by the same truth the octopus shared. There we will find that which we have been searching for all our lives. We will look at ourselves and fall truly, madly, deeply, in love with that which looks back. Then we will know what the Hebrew scriptures meant when they relate that, God said, “Let us make humanity in our own image and likeness.” It was done. It surely was done.
Our task in life has always been a threefold task; to remember who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. The world’s scriptures all tell us in varying ways about our task; they tell us what we already know: we are divine beings who came from God and will return to God.
Perhaps it is time to stop asking questions of those who do not know the answers, of those who wish to discourage the questioning, of those who want us to have false answers, of those who need to keep themselves in the power of being asked. Perhaps it is time, with the help of a wise octopus, to find the answers ourselves.
And perhaps it is also time to look into the place we have not looked clearly before. Look within. Go deep within. Seek what is there. And when you fine that which surpasses the human heart’s power to express, try sharing some of your joy with the little fishes that swim nearby.