The Fish and the Sky

Zeng Ying

PureInsight | December 3, 2007

[] During a
psychology lecture, the psychologist told us a story: Once there was a
little fish. It stared at the sky every day and imagined itself flying
among the clouds like a bird. The other fish could not comprehend its
wish and thought that fish should live in the water, swim among the
caves and weeds, and enjoy the many different kinds of food in the
clear water. Enjoying such a trouble-free life is what fish should do
instead of dreaming of something impossible and looking for

The little fish, however, did not think that way. Since the sky was
beyond its reach, it seemed even more beautiful. Besides, in the water,
the little fish could see the bottom of the river and there was nothing
it could dream about, so the boring life of being in the water was not
much better than being a stone.

Thus, that little fish started to imagine that it could jump up into
the sky. It tried very hard to jump out of the water, wiggled its tail
forcefully, and tried to move upward. It experienced a short flight.
Often its head hit the water or the rocks around the cave and its blood
was splashed around.

The psychologist suddenly stopped talking and told every one, "I would
like to ask each of you to continue the story. Try to think of an
ending for the little fish."

A middle-aged man sat in the front row said, "Perhaps, the little fish
would discover, after a few blood-splashing attempts, that the sky was
just like what its other friends said: nothing special except as a
source of more pain. The fish decided that it would not fly into the
sky again. It adapted to the not-so-exciting life in the water and
learned to be content."

A young man with glasses said, "The little fish suffered pain with each
attempt at jumping into the sky but felt, with every painful
experience, it was getting closer to its goal. It slowly experienced
the joy of flying even though the duration was short. It saw the
flowers on the mountain, the forest, and the smoke arising from the
chimneys of little houses. At night, it saw the fireflies and the
meteors. All these things would not be possible from even 20 lifetimes
of living in the water.

An old man said, "When the fish jumped out of the water, it did not
know the danger in its surroundings. An osprey on the river bank had
observed the little fish for a while and decided that it was time to
make a move. The osprey caught the fish in midair and flew higher.
Under the osprey's claw, the little fish saw the mountain cave which it
used to live in becoming smaller and smaller. The high mountains, the
villages, and the fields were all below. The little fish had a
bird's-eye view of the world as it had always wanted, even though it
had to pay for it with its life. Before the fish died, it sighed deeply
with both sadness and joy.

A teenager girl said, "Why should we always have such sad endings?
Perhaps its perseverance and firm belief moved Heaven and Earth, and
Heaven sent an osprey to fulfill its wish. The osprey carried the
little fish and flew back and forth in the sky and let the fish
experience the joy of flying.

Another weak voice said, "Shouldn't Heaven be more compassionate and turn it into a bird?"

There were so many different answers. The psychologist finally said,
"In reality, every one of us is just like this little fish and has a
dream that is more or less just as impossible as that of the little
fish.  Because it is so far from being a reality, we cease to
think about it. Some struggle to get close to such a challenge. Some
get hurt and even give up their lives. Some discover that it was not
worth it after a few attempts and continue to live the same old lives.
Some are so drawn-in by their dream they become anxiety- laden. Some
even change into a different person in order to fulfill their dream.

The fish and the sky are in two different realms. If a fish tries to
jump into the sky, the fish is doomed to pain and suffering that
differs only in degree depending on the method it uses. Many of us live
our whole lives just to balance these two realms.

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