Once there was a big fish and a little fish that lived together in a pond. Every day the little fish looked to the skies to see gulls flying from an unseen origin to an unknown destination and back. He studied this magical flight for hours at a time pondering the elegance of the mysterious journey. The big fish swam the circumference of the pond every 17 minutes pondering the vastness of his domain.
On this particular summer day, Little Fish noticed that Big Fish was circling his kingdom much quicker than before. He approached Big Fish and said, “I’m concerned.”
Big Fish, who was quite a bit older and more established in the pond, stopped mid-circle, patted Little Fish on the nose and said, “What is troubling you?”
“You’re swimming around the pond in 16 minutes today instead of your usual 17. I think the pond is shrinking.”
“Oh, that’s nonsense,” Big Fish replied. “I’m just swimming faster and stronger today.”
Little Fish nodded in agreement but wasn’t convinced. He decided to observe the situation carefully. For the next several days, he saw Big Fish circling the whole pond faster and faster. Every time he asked Big Fish about it he got a different explanation.
Why would we do that?
Finally on the fifth day, he asked a serious question. “Do you think we should try to find a new pond?”
“Why on earth would we do that?” Big Fish retorted.
“Because this one is shrinking.”
“Nonsense!” and Big Fish started his day with a 9 minute circle, unaware that he had come around a second time at the 17-minute mark. Flustered, he stopped in front of Little Fish. “There are no other ponds! Why would you think there are any other ponds? Ridiculous!” And he swam away.
Little Fish called after him, “Because the gulls fly back and forth above us. They never swoop down to eat us, so there must be other fish nearby. Let’s go see!”
There are no other fish and no other ponds.
“Absolutely not,” Big Fish said directly. “There are no other fish and definitely no other ponds.”
Little Fish swam to the far side of the pond. He felt sad and confused.
When Little Fish woke the next day, he was urgently troubled to see Big Fish starting lap 4 at the 17-minute mark. He raced side by side with Big Fish until neither could breathe and both had to stop and rest. Gasping, Little Fish said, “It’s time. We have to try and make it to a new pond. We can’t wait any longer.”
“I am not going to another pond that doesn’t exist!” Big Fish said sternly.
Little Fish looked at him with kind eyes and hugged Big Fish with his little fins. Then he jumped in the direction of the gulls’ flight.
Big Fish started swimming in circles again.
The little fish jumped and found herself flopping around on dirt and rock. It hurt. She wondered if she should jump back. Even worse, the hot sun came out and Little Fish thought she was going to die from the rocks, dirt and heat. She could hardly breathe.
I could go back.
Little Fish knew that it was just a matter of time until she succumbed to either the heat or a passing gull. Pondering the inevitability of one’s fate is like being punched in the gut, she thought. Not a pleasant feeling at all.
“There’s always the possibility of going back,” Little Fish said aloud, knowing that the universe holds one accountable for the spoken word. “The conventional wisdom must be true: The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” And Little Fish wanted to jump back to the pond.
Some might call it an act of God, but probably it was just heat exhaustion. On the last count of three when Little Fish was about to give her supreme effort to jump back to the pond, her last conscious thought flew away and she fell into darkness.
This is going to end badly.
It was a deep dreamy sleep but Little Fish knew she would never wake up. “So this is death,” she said aloud again marveling at the infinite possibility of all life things. “How little I saw all those days when I thought I was living. Imagine what I might have done.”
Exhilaration propelled Little Fish when she jumped from the pond, but it was deep down fear that shook her when she realized where she had landed.
Romantic tales of ancient oceans had filled her childhood with the traditions of her long-lost fish family. Expecting to be in a bigger world, Little Fish instead found herself caked in sand and sorely bruised from the jagged rocks off which she tumbled. This was bad… very bad.
What is the purpose? To become small.
Hope is lost, cried Little Fish, a tear falling to the ground just so… that it reflected the brilliant light of a single grain of sand. The sand smiled toward Little Fish.
To what purpose? Little Fish asked.
To become small, Sand replied.
Little Fish was startled by Sand’s bold reply. What kind of purpose is that?
Once I was part of a huge mountain, tall and majestic. The animals walked upon my stones and the stars sang to us each night. We were all happy and the creatures knew peace.
The rains came and the ice… bit by bit I was broken into pieces. At first I was sad to be broken for I was no longer majestic. Then the wind called to me and said ‘I need you… will you come?’
I was honored to be chosen for some new purpose and so I went with the wind. She took me down mountains, through streams and across valleys to places I never knew.
All the while I was changing though I couldn’t see it. My rough edges were becoming smooth, my corners were being rounded, my greatness was being humbled.
The wind brought me to the edge of a vast ocean and then dropped me into the salty water. For thousands of years I rolled with the waves, getting smaller and smaller. A great sun came and dried up the sea but the wind asked me to stay and tell my story to wanderers.
And a beautiful story it is, Little Fish said, to become small.
But then a funny thing happened. It started to rain. It rained hard and all of a sudden, Little Fish found herself in a puddle of water. She could breathe again. The puddle grew and Little Fish could swim a bit again. After a while, the puddle turned into a stream. Little Fish could feel the stream flowing with a current and she started swimming with this new current. Then after a while longer, the stream emptied into a very big body of living water.
And we all know what happens with living water…
Living water quenches the soul.
Little Fish was never thirsty again.