|Matthew 13: 34|
Analogies and parables are useful to compare something unseen to what is evidently seen.
But even with the most mundane of stories told, usually what is not experienced by someone cannot be understood by that person.
How does a fish tell another fish they've been swimming in water their entire lives?
How can the concept of air be explained to a fish who has never been out of water?
If a fish never experiences anything other than their watery environment, how can they be told (or expected to believe / understand) there is another world beyond their waters?
Here's a simple story:
A certain type of fish live in and around cover, between rocks and among plants in the ocean with other like fish.
This is their natural habitat.
They stay protected by being among the rocks and plants.
Every so often, a few predatory fish swim by.
One particular day, a group of sharks come by looking for something to eat.
All the prey fish take evasive action and begin to franticly swim in between the rocks where the sharks cannot get to them.
But one fish in particular, let's call him Jacky, isn't quick enough to get to the safe-haven of the rocks, and swims instead out into the open.
He's been warned never to this, and neither to swim above the rocks and plants, for doing so he becomes an easy meal for a faster swimming predatory fish.
Very rarely does a prey out-swim the faster and more aggressive predators.
The sharks begin to pursue Jacky and align themselves between the Jacky and the safety of the rocks.
Jacky can't swim directly back to the rocks, and he's not fast enough to swim around the sharks by trying to get past them.
Going to the left or the right will only cause the sharks to get closer and intercept him more easily.
Jacky wonders if he can swim over them.
He begins to swim up towards shallower water, figuring he's already in danger, he might as well have more space to maneuver in trying to out-swim the sharks.
The sharks are relentless and continue their hungry pursuit of Jacky.
Jacky continues towards the surface, never having been this shallow.
He begins to notice how much brighter the waters are becoming.
Shark after shark torpedoes for him with open mouths as Jacky does his best to turn and jerk just in time to miss their crowded shark teeth.
They get so close, Jacky can at times see the shark's previous meal still stuck between the jagged array of razor-sharp teeth.
Jacky has never been this close to any predator; these masters of the deep.
All the warnings he's heard from his scaly friends and relatives are ringing almost louder than his heart is beating.
As Jacky swims into shallower waters, the waters continue to be more illuminated, and now much warmer than what he's used to.
Jacky can also see how menacing these sharks look, their size even scarier than previously perceived from afar in the deeper murkier waters.
He isn't sure what is left to do, and notices as he gets closer to the brightness, that the water seems to have an 'end' to it; the surface.
He doesn't know what the 'surface' is; he simply notices there is more brightness beyond where the water seems to end.
Thinking if he was to now turn in a horizontal direction, he may give a shark an easy chance to snatch him.
Jacky continues swimming straight up in full stride.
He breaks beyond what seems like a 'barrier' and is now out of ocean's water!
The sharks lose sight of him momentarily, turning horizontally in search of Jacky.
Jacky notices he cannot swim anymore, so he stops flapping his tail.
For Jacky, he is not sure what just happened, but now feels a different sensation and reality than he's never felt all his fishy life.
Jacky wonders if in fact he was eaten alive and has passed into some trance.
The dry air pierces his gills and he can't breathe.
The air is drying his eyes, yet he can see what the surface of his watery reality looks like, and sees the expanse (sky) looks limitless.
He can tell that the sounds of the ocean are now gone, but he can't make out what he 'hears' now as he momentarily floats in the air.
He notices what seems to be the light source that makes the shallower ocean waters brighter, and he feels it giving off more heat than he's ever felt.
It is uncomfortable for Jacky this experience in the air; being outside his usual environment.
He does't see any sharks, so this moment of surprise is actually a bit peaceful despite the pains of the dryness, heat and inability to breathe.
After what seems like an eternity, Jacky's momentary 'flight' out of the water begins to come to end, and his trajectory is now headed back towards the surface of the water.
He notices the water and the darkness he is about to plunge back into.
Jacky's nervous; his world has been turned upside down and he can't put together what is currently happening to him.
The sharks, having arrived at the surface, are quite confused and bewildered from turning every which way and not seeing their meal.
“Where could that tasty fish have gone?” they wonder.
They are searching, looking beneath the surface in all directions and further below, unsure what to make of this disappearing fish.
Moments later, Jacky plunges back into the ocean's water, and this snaps him back into reality.
He is quickly reminded that he's not dead, and his shark trouble is still present.
This causes Jacky to make a fright-filled dash back to deeper waters in the hope of making it back home.
The sharks hear the splash and when turning to look in its direction, to their surprise their potential prey has reappeared, and is now pushing its way into the dark deep.
They again give chase, now more determined to eat this disappearing fish.
Being ahead of the faster swimming sharks, our scared little Jacky is able to out maneuver the sleeker and faster sharks, eventually making his way back home and out of sight between the safe rocks.
He returns to his familiar plants and rocks.
Jacky's friends and family are very happy to see his familiar scaly face.
They express how they thought for sure he was today's meal for a shark or two.
They ask him what happened.
Jacky begins to explain the drama as it unfolded, including in very specific detail his venture beyond the “great bright” (what the waters beyond their deep surroundings are called by his fellow fish).
As Jacky is describing his 'flight' beyond the great bright, and explaining that there is a 'surface' and that he pierced past this border, some start to sneer and complain, thinking Jacky is now out of its mind or simply making things up.
Some go as far as to suggest Jacky was simply hiding among some rocks the entire time and now simply wants to fascinate people with this tall tale.
Some others who are not so mean, yet still skeptical, dismiss Jacky's story.
They think he may be suffering some trauma from coming near-death when evading the hungry sharks.
Jacky is confused, hurt, and at the same time a bit frustrated.
He wonders why the other fish would think he is lying, or making things up, or out of his mind.
Jacky asks if anyone else has ever ventured beyond the safe-haven of the rocks and plants.
None can say they have, referring to the rules about not going too far past the rocks and plants.
They all in unison begin to recite their rules:
It is dangerous to go... beyond what we know
Anyone who dares... is a meal without wares
Whoever has gone... beyond what is known
Never comes back... to tell what can be toldJacky is also repeating this cadence, having done in chorus with all others thousands of times before.
Jacky now begins to question himself.
Did he really just evade several sharks?
Did he simply imagine it all?
What about the wild sensations of what he felt, heard and saw??
Was it all something his mind made up while hiding out among some rocks?
Did he just imagine the flesh of fallen fish between the jarred and sharp shark teeth?
He wonders if he could be so crazy as to make up such a fantastic story.
But he's sure of what he felt, saw and heard!
Jacky has never purposed a lie in his entire fishy life.
The only few times he did lie was when he was much younger, to not get in trouble, but he learned that more trouble and problems for others were caused when he did lie.
Jacky is certain he is not lying about what just happened.
Jacky becomes sad for his friends and family.
He wonders that if they would simply venture up towards the surface, they may be able to peak their heads out of the water and see for themselves.
As he begins to suggest this, they begin to peck at him ferociously.
He loses some scales in the frenzied abuse for suggesting such a dangerous and lawbreaking idea.
Jacky swims away from the crowd as fast as he can...with some fish now laughing, some others angry with him and calling for Jacky to be banished or pushed above and beyond the rocks.
They threaten him to never mention this 'story' of his ever again, and warn him if they hear about it again, they will gather enough fish to push him away for good.
Jacky is wondering what he can do with himself now.
He can't simply deny what he has experienced, and wonders now what is more dangerous; speaking again of the facts of what he experienced first-hand, or being pushed away to become fish food.
One thing he does know; it is possible to escape the scariest predator he knows.
Another thing he knows, yet doesn't fully understand; there is a place beyond the “great bright”, and that place seems more peaceful than the hostile environments of hungry predators and indifferent ignorant fish.