Friday, December 9, 2011

Swimming Left When the World Swims Right

December 9, 2011
There are lots of fish in the sea—thousands of them. They vary in size and color and temperament and habit, but they’re all out there, swimming in the sea—you know, propelling themselves along with their fins and tails, and co-habitating with the other fish in their vicinity. They know other fish. They get other fish. They know that some of the fish out there are predators, and some are prey. They know which fish they have a symbiotic relationship with—the ones you might call friends, even if they don’t run around in the same school.
So there they are, swimming around, doin’ their own fishy thing. It comes naturally to them. They don’t worry about belonging; they’re surrounded by lots of fish just like them. They fit in; they know where they stand with one another, so to speak.
Let’s say in the midst of all of these beautiful fish is a sea turtle. Now, sea turtles are wonderful creatures in their own right. Unique. Beautiful. Just not fish. They swim in their own way; they do their own thing. They swim with the fish, but not really with the fish. So here’s this turtle—a very cool turtle indeed—but he’s flying kind of solo. As it turns out, it’s not even clear that he recognizes he’s a turtle. He moves with the schools of fish, joining this one and that one for awhile, but even though those schools of fish have very highly developed means of communicating with one another, the turtle never can quite catch on. Turtles communicate differently, you see. And if you don’t even know you’re a turtle, well, that can make it tough to understand why you’re not getting the same picture as all the other fish in the school. Why all the other fish understand that here is where the school turns left, here is where the school jags right. Turtle, try as he might, doesn’t always get the message. Oh, he’s clever, that turtle, and even though he doesn’t speak the language he gets the general idea of what all the other fish get. The nuances, though—those are tough if you’re a turtle in a fish world. But the turtle doesn’t know any other way to be than a turtle in a fish world.
Until. Until one of two things happen. First, turtle can find another group of turtles—all still unique, their own individual turtle, but a group, nonetheless. Turtles who can communicate, who really speak each other’s language. Turtles who celebrate their ‘turtleness’ and accept one another for that. With whom Turtle comes to recognize his true self. Second, one of the fish in the school our turtle has joined learns his language, reaches out, includes him, and begins to teach him the nuances of her school. Who lets him know that there’s no such thing as fish or turtle to her; there is only friendship among fellow swimmers in the sea.
How amazingly cool when, in fact, both of those things happen at the same time.

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