So, Jacob starts swimming with me. I’ve heard about Jacob. He’s that fish who swims with all kinds of schools. He starts talking with me about all the different schools where he’s been swimming.
“Don’t you get tired of swimming with so many schools?” I asked.
“Life’s got all kinds of schools, man. Do you ever look up at the night sky?”
“No. Why bother? It’s just a bunch of darkness,” I replied.
“Aw, then you really HAVEN’T looked up at the sky. It’s not just darkness. There be stars up there, matey. Beautiful stars. Constellations. Galaxies. Places you can visit and chill out at. Realms of wisdom lost to the ages. Been a long time since folk dared to go up there.”
“Go up there? Are you insane? There’s no water. You’d die.”
“Would you believe me if I told you I’ve been up there? Let me tell you, life’s like a stream. It flows into this nook or that cranny. Right at the end of the stream you see something folks call death. But it’s actually the big unknown; the mystery. It’s waiting for you, yah know?”
“So, if you’ve been to the stars, why are you down here swimming with us normal fish?”
“You all are too far out. I love to observe. Fish swimming here and there, darting furiously after little pebbles of food like it’s the most important thing in the sea, never looking around and feeling the gift they’ve been given. Every now and again though, I see a fish who needs to fly, you know? Just needs to. You ever hear of this salmon giving talks out at the berg? He says there’s this kind of fish, the boddhisatfish, who goes to the stars and then comes back to the schools to chill and help wherever possible. Help in the real way, dig? So now you know it can be done. Do what you will.”
He swims away. Pfffft. Far out. I’m not the one who’s far out. Yeah, jump out to where there’s no air, and maybe even a hook. Enough hooks dip into the schools as it is. I don’t need to get closer to the surface, where all the hooks come from. What’s wrong with swimming with the same school? Here, I know I’m safe. I’ve got a bunch of fish to swim with, and we’re doing just fine. Everyone shows up on time, and we have a purpose. We’re here to keep the schools going. We toil tirelessly for the greater good. If he really wanted to help, he’d be stooping to dart after pebbles of food like every other fish. He’d be a part of one school, and he’d devote himself to the greater purpose. Once we start going off on our own, the whole thing will fall apart. No more schools. No more structure. Everyone just going off and doing what they please. It’s shellfish.
Still, it hits me one night. I’m having dreams about what he said. I’m filled with the burning desire to see what’s beyond the schools. The feeling is so strong it could filet me. One restless night, I decide to swim closer to the surface. I’ll just have a look. I just want to see if what he’s talking about is true. Once I know he’s putting me on, I can come back to the safety of my school and I’ll know not to trust what he says. That’s why I’m going out there. To prove Jacob wrong.
Once I get there, I see what Jacob was talking about. There really are stars out there. Well, I guess I can’t prove him wrong. From this view, I take a look down and see why it is all the hooks dip into the schools. It’s because that’s where all the fish are. There they swim, just waiting to die. No, there must be a reason I felt so safe there. Now that I look out at these stars, however, I can’t think of a single reason why I thought that place was so secure. I’m just as secure here, with this beautiful view! I think I can even see something in that cloud of burning stars. Now I’m seeing words swirling around in that cloud. I dare you. No, there’s something more. I dare you to be free.
It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to go and see beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Oh, but the risk—I dare you—it really isn’t safe—to be—but what if I—free.
Nothing in the world can stop me at this point. I swim back to give myself some momentum. I am gaining speed I never thought I had in me. I am hurtling myself toward the surface, towards the deep darkness and luminescent flare of astral bodies, and I anticipate a painful crash. I break through the surface. Instead of a crash, there is a sudden wash of nothing: a perfect lack of sound. No more voices. No more posturing. No more fish telling me what I am and what I should be and what I need to do with my life. No more schedules, no more appointments, and no more expectations. Nothing remains but beautiful, sterling silence. I thought I was going to die, but now I feel as though I haven’t been alive until now. The remaining bits of water fly out of my gills and I need to keep the breath in my body. A new breath emerges. Now I am breathing fully, deeply, and meaningfully. The light of the stars is approaching me, and I see that the stars are not terrible and pain-inflicting balls of fire, but just water in another form. I prepare to enter the mass, the words growing before my eyes.
I dare you to be free.