Once it was said, "It is like a Fisher who went out to fish. She draws a net full of small fish into her boat. She sorts through the small fish and finds one big fish, large and excellent! She takes the big fish and lets the small fish go back into the water. If you have ears, you will hear. Gospel of Thomas, Saying 8
In the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas there is a wonderful parable for the transformation of life. Traditionally, it carries the name: The Parable of the Net. I might rather call it Small Fish, Big Fish. Or perhaps more simply,.BIG FISH! As I examine my own life I find two approaches to this parable. In the first, I am like the fisher in the story, sorting my fish, the small, the big, choosing finally the one -- large and excellent.. As I read more deeply, the parable turns and what is small looms large in my life, taking my time and attention and leading to my transformation.
Reading #1: Big Fish Good, Small Fish Bad First things first. I have small fish in my life, items, things, feelings, thoughts, that though they scream out for and get my attention, amount to very little. I have worry fish, regret fish, anger fish, and O Poor Pitful Me Fish. One fish flashes greed, showing its bright scales. Yep, sometimes it seems I am surrounded by small fry, grabbing my attention. O to be rid of these small fish! The fisher in the parable so surrounded looks more carefully and sees the big fish -- large and excellent. She chooses that one. This maybe is the God fish, or maybe the More-Perfect-Me Fish. This Big Fish will promise much, but in my life he is also ultimately a disappointing fish. This is my first reading of the koan, the parable. Yet, as I hold this reading in my meditation I am disappointed. Big Fish seem small indeed. So, as I read the parable again something calls me deeper, opening it in a way that is far less judgemental of these small fish in my life.
Reading #2: The Obstacle is the Gate to Abundant Life If I am patient with these small fish, I find they grow. At first they seem to be out of control and overwhelm. I want nothing more than to rid myself of these small, now growing fish. You know what I mean? The small fry in my life don't fit my image of myself, an image of myself more put together, happier. My tendency is to try to rid myself of the small and growing fish that now fills my consciousness, now defines my life. This small, now big fish seems to be the obstacle in my life that needs to be eradicated, dumped out of the boat.. But what if that is not true? What if the Life Abundant is present everywhere and in everything? Even right here in my irritation at the small fish? In fact, what if what I identify as the obstacle is really the gate?
Recently,I decided to sit with my anger fish. I was really angry with someone who had promised to do something for me which she had failed to deliver. It was like sitting in stew but soon in the simmering I began to sit in deeper anger -- my parents, my friends who kept me waiting --and then a deeper anger of not being included (they wouldn't let Rudolf play in any reindeer games). Turning to this anger I found my desire to be part of life, the richness around me -- and beneath this the realization was the sense that I have always been a part of the life abundant, the universal play. Deep down and through the anger already I was part of the Big Fish, the Big Fish that stands in for Unnameable, the Whole, Life-As-It-Is.
Welcome! So welcome to this koan, this parable. Lying Deep Beneath the Waves, beyond what is known and certain, beyond and beneath the images and beliefs that we carry about ourselves is a Big Fish. You are that Big Fish. Welcome! Dive in!