“The instant fish accept that they will never have arms, they grow fins.”
That’s the wisdom with which Mark Nepo begins his thought for today in The Book of Awakening. And, it is a thought that captures my imagination.
It is true, isn’t it, that you and I cannot become until we accept what we are not?
And this accepting I have found to be one hell-a-shish thing to do.
“What do you mean?” you ask.
You know what I mean.
Just consider how it’s been with me. For the greater part of my life, too. I suspect you’ll agree it’s been much the same with you.
For most of my life…
I’ve wanted to get ahead of others, instead of walking beside them.
I’ve wanted to be smart, instead of wise.
I’ve wanted to be known, instead of knowing.
I’ve wanted to be handsome, instead of wholesome.
I’ve wanted to be a “Christian,” instead of Christ-like.
I’ve wanted to be first, instead of last.
I’ve wanted to be liked, instead of loving.
I’ve wanted to have sex, instead of create intimacy.
I’ve wanted to be perfect, instead of human.
I’ve wanted to make money, instead of make a life.
I’ve wanted to impress others, instead of bless others.
I’ve wanted to build a church, instead of be the church.
I’ve wanted to go to heaven, instead of live it now.
It is little wonder, is it, that I have spent the greater part of my life in what John Steinbeck called “the winter of our discontents?” Mine was a bit more year-round than that.
And, I suppose that’s what has been so confusing to me, too. And, perhaps why I continued to miss the message…the message in the madness, the real truth in the temporary triumphs that all too quickly turned dark gray like the plans you make on a weather report that it’ll be “Sunny today!” And then, the clouds appear before noon.
Whatever accomplishments I made would reward me with the temporary feeling of satisfaction…just enough salt to make you want more and the salt shaker is empty. Just enough of a pat on my back…just enough “That-a-boy!” to make me believe I was pursuing the right path. One that would take me toward the illusion of the imagined “ME.” I never seemed to get it, however. That part about why the path leads nowhere but to the next discontent…about why the satisfaction never lasted more than a season.
The winter of discontent would appear again…and again…and then, again and again, and, before I knew what was happening, the cycle of madness was in full swing again.
But then, one day, amazingly, I just woke up and out of this madness.
Grace greeted me.
A new day dawned.
A new way of living was born.
Winter turned to spring.
The awakening was more like a realization, I suppose. Or, a new way of thinking…and living…and very much like wings to a bird or fins to a fish.
I realized that life is not about getting ahead but about becoming still…not about doing…or, accomplishing…or, achieving…or, impressing…not about anything but being fully and completely myself. With all of its ordinariness. Its simplicity. Its beauty. Its freedom.
I realized that life is not really about the fantasies of who I might be, but the realness of who I am. It isn’t about all this striving, struggling, seeking, and searching but never quite finding who I am. Who I really am. I cannot be who I am not. Nor can you.
Oh, sure, you can try. Welcome to the madness.
I realized that life is not about getting ahead of myself, but living in harmony with Life itself.
The message I had been hearing all my life…at least, until that morning when everything changed, the message I had been hearing was one I think you’ve probably heard, too.
“You can be whatever you want!”
But that’s just it, isn’t it? Why would you ever wish to be the person you are not? Why would you want to be someone other than yourself?
You see, the problem with so much in religion today is that it’s always all about becoming something other than who we are…all about getting somewhere other than where we are.
For this, and a lot other reasons, people have given up on religion.
What Jesus came to teach you instead…what the Buddha tried to get his followers to understand…what Lao-Tzu and a host of others are always saying – and, isn’t it interesting that the stuff they said, as opposed to the likes of Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh and Steve McSwain will be forgotten tomorrow – but their words never seem to die? These wise souls were always reminding us that, when fish accept they will never have arms, they grow fins.
When you get this truth, my friend, your life will begin.
Until you get it…
…you’re just a fish trying to grow arms.