Three Fish

This is the story of a lake and three big fish
that were in it, one of them intelligent,
another half-intelligent, and the third, stupid.
Some fishermen came to the edge of the lake with their nets.
The three fish saw them.

The intelligent fish decided at once to leave,
to make the long, difficult trip to the ocean.

He thought,
“I won’t consult with these two on this.
They will only weaken my resolve,
because they love this place so. They call it home.
Their ignorance will keep them here.”

When you’re travelling, ask a traveller for advice,
not someone whose lameness keeps him in one place.
Muhammad says,
‘Love of one’s country is part of the faith.’
But don’t take that literally!
Your real ‘country’ is where you are heading, not where you are.

So the intelligent fish made its whole length
a moving footprint and, like a deer the dogs chase,
suffered greatly on its way, but finally made it
to the edgeless safety of the sea.

The half-intelligent fish thought,
“My guide has gone. I ought to have gone with him,
but I didn’t, and now I’ve lost my chance to escape.
I wish I’d gone with him.”
Don’t regret what’s happened. If it’s in the past, let it go.
Don’t even remember it…!
He mourns the absence of his guide for a while,
and then thinks,
What can I do to save myself from these men and their nets?
Perhaps if I pretend to be already dead!
I’ll belly up on the surface and float like weeds float,
just giving myself totally to the water.
So he did that.
He bobbed up and down, helpless,
within arm’s reach of the fishermen.

‘Look at this! The best and biggest fish is dead.’
One of the men lifted him by the tail,
spat on him, and threw him up on the ground.
He rolled over and over and slid secretly near the water,
and then, back in.

the third fish, the dumb one, was agitatedly
jumping about, trying to escape with his agility and cleverness.

The net, of course, finally closed around him,
and as he lay in the terrible frying-pan bed,
he thought,
‘If I get out of this,
I’ll never live again in the limits of a lake.
Next time, the ocean!
I’ll make the infinite my home.’

Three Fish by Rumi


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