The Fish, The Pelican, and The Nature of Reality
By Matthew Joyce
Once there was a little fish who lived in the sea. It swam with a
great school of other fishes, living, loving, and learning in a
seemingly endless expanse that provided for its every need.
The fish was happy enough. But sometimes it struggled to find food
and always it swam in fear of bigger fish—or worse the white-winged
creatures that plunged down upon members of its school when they
least expected it. For this reason the school of fishes swam close
together, mirroring each other's movements and not daring to
venture off on their own.
But even the safety of numbers was not always enough.
Such was the case one afternoon when the school swam about in the
shallows where food was plentiful.
Without warning, silver streaks of bubbles and birds darted into
the center of the school of fishes. The fishes scattered away. But
the little fish was not so lucky.
A pelican's beak gripped it firmly around its middle. Escape was
"Please!" cried the little fish. "Have pity and release me!"
"Indeed," said the pelican, clamping even tighter onto the fish.
With a powerful thrust of its wings the pelican stroked upward
toward the surface.
As the silvery mirrored surface raced ever closer, fears of death
swam before the fish's eyes. Soon the little fish saw its own
frightened reflection, as well as the reflection of the
white-winged angel of death bearing it to its doom.
Then, in an explosion of liquid light, the barrier shattered and
the little fish was surrounded in radiant light more brilliant than
it could have ever imagined. It gasped for breath in a breathless
world and marveled as it looked down upon the receding watery realm
that it knew as home.
"Climb inside my gullet where you will be safe," said the pelican
as it released its hold on the fish.
Too shocked to struggle, the fish complied and discovered it could
breathe comfortably while observing this miraculous new world. As
the fish looked about, it saw white-winged creatures soaring on
invisible currents between the roiling blue of its home below and
an infinite blue stillness above.
It saw white ships hauling in nets filled with fishes. It saw puffy
white shapes billowing and floating on the horizon, and in the
distance it saw a beach of sand that glistened like diamonds in the
Filled with awe at this new world, the fish had no words—and indeed
few concepts—with which to describe it. So the fish remained silent
as the pelican wheeled about in the sky and dropped toward the
The bird came in fast and low. Its wing tips hovering just inches
above the water. And then as the sand rushed beneath its wings the
pelican pulled upward, stalled, and dropped onto the shore where
two- and four-legged creatures lazed and frolicked about.
Finding words at last the fish said, "This is truly another world."
"Now that you know it exists, it is time for you to return home,"
said the pelican. With a mighty flap of its wings it leapt from the
beach and returned to the invisible currents of the air.
As they climbed to the heights once more, the fish said, "I had no
idea any of this existed. I was so afraid."
"Now you are truly free," said the pelican.
"How can I ever thank you?" asked the fish.
"No thanks is required," answered the pelican. "But having
experienced this greater reality, it becomes your task to share it
with others of your kind that they too may know this freedom."
"And how do I do that?" asked the fish.
"That is not for me say. Each must figure that out on our own.
That's what keeps the message alive," said the pelican as it began
a graceful descent toward the ceaseless waves below.
As the fish neared the froth and foam of its former existence it
gazed about in profound silence, striving to capture and retain its
impressions of this greater reality. Then with a simple splash the
fish plunged back into a sea of shocking density and limited
It gaped and gasped as the sea flowed through its gills once more.
For a few moments it lingered there beside that mirrored surface,
looking at its own reflection and knowing that so much more awaits
beyond that translucent transition zone.
Then with a flick of its tail the fish swam for the depths to find
its school and begin its new task.
Upon the fish's return, its friends marveled. "You're alive!" they
cried. "We thought you were dead."
"So did I for while," said the little fish. "But I survived and I've
come back with a message of a greater reality that awaits you
if only you have courage to seek it."
The other fishes listened with polite interest as the little fish
told of the white-winged angels that soar in the invisible realm
between the ceaseless blue below and silent blue above. They
nodded as the fish told of the boats, clouds, people, and dogs that
it had seen. But most of the fishes found the story difficult to
"The sea is all there is," they said. "And we are masters of it. We
can go anywhere we please."
"Indeed you can," said the little fish. "And much farther than you
ever dreamed. All it takes is a flick of your tail to break that
mirrored surface and you can experience the greater reality beyond."
"This is enough for us," said the school of fishes as they swam away.
As the little fish watched them leave it felt that it had failed in its
task. But then it heard a small voice at its side.
"I want to learn," said a young fish.
"Me too," said another.
And so began the teaching of the fish, the pelican, and the greater
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