The Meaning of Fishes
There comes a point in everyone’s life where something that was exceedingly opaque becomes exceedingly transparent, its meaning becoming blindingly obvious. It was as though I had metaphorically stuffed a Babel Fish into my ear and listened to a translation of a long held proverb into another language, a language I actually understood; the language of philosophy and knowing and metaphor.
It’s quite hard to recall my religious education from my school days but I do remember some of the proverbs quoted. The proverb to which I am referring is the feeding of the five thousand with five fishes and three loaves. Or was it three fishes and five loaves.
Anyway, what struck me was the impossibility of it. How could so many be fed from so little? Is there actually another meaning hidden deeper in the text which I missed?
What I feel is that most, if not all, of the proverbs and stories quoted are just parables, allegories that contained more than a literal interpretation. Parables cannot ever be literal, or an accurate and factual description of history. Yes, words do carry a literal meaning but you see, these were not read. These were related by storytellers, by their voice and mime, over millennia, to tribes and societies over continents and distant lands.
Words carry their own literal meaning but together, also carry context, story, philosophy, metaphor; a sense of something more. When Sarah-Jane and I converse together, time seems to vanish invisibly in a blink of an eye. We struggle to understand how we talk of so much in so little a moment. They are deep conversations touching philosophy, life, mortality and death, illness, transformation; challenging topics for most people.
When I listen to her words, I see images form in my mind, concepts and ideas that sculpt out of nothing but words. I understand her, she understands me. Just a small sentence conjures a brightly coloured spectacle of understanding and wisdom. I get it. I hear the voice, the inflections. I see the body language, the subtle movements in the eyes and face and body. Information passes between us on a multitude of levels. We listen, really listen, hearing every facet of description possible.
Such a deep connection is rare in today’s world but I hope that it is destined to become the norm between neighbour and nations if people are willing to venture out of their boxes, tightly constricted as they are by belief and ideology; challenging topics for most people.
Seeing beyond the obvious to something much deeper is the role of story and parable. In the telling, to some it is just a story but to those on the verge of a shift in their awareness, it will become something greater, potentially moving them into a new stage of spiritual evolution, to a deep understanding of themselves and others.
I add to the equation another parable. This one is about feeding fish and is not so dissimilar to the previous parable. This parable goes, “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” You see, if you give a man a fish, you are as locked to him as he is to you. You are both forever tied like Siamese twins with feelings of resentment and anger towards the other, pining for a freedom that will never be granted.
These two parables brought together showed me something that was greater than the sum of the individual parts. What if the feeding of the five thousand was actually Jesus teaching the people to fish. Not only the literal act of fishing to feed the outer but also feeding the inner by schooling them in spiritual knowledge and wisdom prompting an evolution and revolution in understanding the language of philosophy and knowing.
Taking all the parables together, they paint of picture of a movement towards a spiritual goal, of transforming the inner to awaken to compassion rather than conflict, to acceptance rather than dogma. Those who ‘see’ just the words miss the opportunity to move beyond their comfort zones to glimpse the impossible manifested.
In one of our many trips into our deep connection zone, Sarah-Jane and I discussed the parable in relation to the three main political parties in the UK. We thought that the Liberal Democrats would be the ones who would teach people to fish but would also give fish to those unable to catch their own. We thought the Labour Party would always want to give people fish. And we thought the Conservatives would teach to fish only those who had lots of fish already, give fish only to those they thought deserving and would dangle fishes in front of those who were unable to catch their own.
We are in a century of fast communication, sound bites and social media but rarely do we choose to sit and think properly about what we are writing. We prefer to type a quick text or email and send it without checking the spelling or grammar, or even if it expresses what we mean.
And even more rarely do we sit and actually talk directly with another person. Humanity is gradually forgetting to listen, really listen.