The start of school for a 6th and 9th grader, both with extracurricular activities, has been kicking my butt. I barely had time to return emails, let alone sit down and write anything. I have had the opportunity to watch portions of both the republican and democratic conventions and the associated commentaries/opinions of the talking heads on both the left and right. I mostly steer clear of politics on this blog, but the discussions of what the government should and shouldn’t mean to us as Americans reminded me of two posts I wrote last year. If you’ve been wondering which side of the political aisle I gravitate towards, these should probably clear up any mystery:
The Rainbow Fish revisited, Part 1
In 1992, Swiss author Marcus Pfister wrote and illustrated the award winning children’s book The Rainbow Fish, which was translated into over 80 languages and sold over 15 million copies. The moral of the story was “Love is giving a gift, not receiving gratification. Where the rainbow fish realised that giving of itself is better than being praised for its beauty.” (from Wikipedia) Pfister went on to write a series of books that addressed other topics: fear, acceptance, modesty and arguments.
While I do agree with the intended message, something about that book never sat right with me. So I decided to read it again. The following is an abbreviated version of the book which I feel hits on all the major themes:
In the deep blue sea, there lived a beautiful fish–the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean, with scales every shade of blue, green and purple with sparkling silver scales among them.
The other fish were amazed at his beauty. They called him Rainbow Fish. “Come on, Rainbow Fish! Come and play with us.” But the Rainbow Fish would just glide past, proud and silent.
One day, a little blue fish asked him to give him one of his shiny scales. “They are so wonderful, and you have so many.” said the little fish.
The Rainbow Fish refused. “Who do you think you are? Get away from me!” Shocked, the blue fish swam away. Upset, he told all his friends what had happened. From then on, no one would have anything to do with Rainbow Fish.What good were the dazzling shimmering scales with no one to admire them? He was now the loneliest fish in the ocean. One day he asked the starfish why no one liked him. The starfish told him to seek the counsel of the wise octopus, so the Rainbow Fish goes to visit the octopus in the dark cave where she lived.
“I have been waiting for you”, said the octopus. “The waves have told me your story.” The octopus told Rainbow Fish to give away a glittering scale to each of the other fish. “You will no longer be the most beautiful fish in the sea, but you will discover how to be happy.”
The Rainbow Fish didn’t think he could give away his scales. He felt he couldn’t be happy without them. Just then, the little blue fish returned and asked again for just one scale. Rainbow Fish wavered and gave one small, shimmering scale to the blue fish.
The little blue fish thanked Rainbow Fish and tucked the shimmering scale among his blue ones. A peculiar feeling came over Rainbow Fish as he watched the blue fish swim back and forth with his shimmering scale in the water.
Before long, Rainbow Fish was surrounded by other fish, each wanting a shimmering scale. Rainbow Fish began giving away his scales. The more he gave away, the more delighted he became. When the water around him filled with glimmering scales, he at last felt at home among the other fish.
Finally the Rainbow Fish had only one shining scale left. He had given away his most prized possessions, yet he was very happy. “Come and play with us, Rainbow Fish!” And the Rainbow Fish swam off happily to join his friends.
The Rainbow Fish revisited, Part 2
Today, I will share my version of what the rest of this story might be…or not.
AND NOW…THE REST OF THE STORY:
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As the Rainbow Fish was swimming around with his new friends, he noticed a blue fish without a shining scale. “Who is that fish?”, he asked one of his new friends. “Oh, that’s Seymour. He didn’t get a shiny scale from you.”
Rainbow Fish frowned. “Perhaps I should give him my last shining scale”, he said.
“If you give away your last scale, there would be nothing special about you. Besides, Seymour said he didn’t want a shiny scale. He’s happy being a plain, old blue fish. Come play!”, said the blue fish with the shiny scale.
But Rainbow Fish was confused and curious why Seymour would refuse his gift of a shimmering scale and the chance to be beautiful like all the other fish. He left his new friends and swam towards Seymour.
“Hello, Seymour. My name is Rainbow Fish. Little Blue tells me you didn’t want a shimmering scale like the others. Do you not find them beautiful?”
“Oh, yes”, said Seymour. “They are quite beautiful. I often admired your beauty before you gave them away to the other fish. Now I am wondering why you chose to give them away.”
The Rainbow Fish replied, “Those beautiful scales made me miserable and lonely. None of the other fish would play with me. So I took the advice of the wise octopus who told me to give them away. Now I am happy.”
“Was it the scales that made you miserable, or was it your vanity?”, asked Seymour. “You seemed to be happy until the other fish shunned you for not sharing your scales. Your beauty’s reward was the attention of the other fish. Once that was gone, you could no longer find worth in beauty alone.”
“But when I gave my scales away, I gave the opportunity for all the fish to be beautiful, and they loved me for it.”
“Do you think the other fish would be your friend if you hadn’t given away your scales to them? Is their friendship based on what you provided for them?”
“That I can’t answer”, said the Rainbow Fish. “But I’m happy I gave them my scales. Now we all are equally beautiful. But I still don’t understand why you refused a scale for yourself. Don’t you want to join us? To be beautiful, too?”
“To be honest, I did want a scale. Who would refuse such a beautiful gift? But as I was waiting my turn to receive a shiny scale, I observed each of the fish after they received theirs.
Little Blue, who had always displayed leadership and a quick mind, seemed to abandon his role as leader, so enamoured was he with his new found beauty. Mariel, who once filled the ocean with her beautiful voice, stopped singing and instead joined the shiny, shimmering dance of the other fish. Each fish, who had something special to offer forgot about their own gift in pursuit of what someone else possessed that they did not.
I may not be beautiful, but I am very agile and fast. This is my gift, and I am grateful for it. Your gift was your beauty, and while you are still beautiful, no more so than anyone else. What sets you apart now?”, asked Seymour.
“I suppose my generosity sets me apart.” said Rainbow Fish.
“You gave away your scales in return for friendship. You traded your vanity for acceptance. True friends would not require payment for their friendship”, said Seymour.
The Rainbow Fish was sad, but very grateful for Seymour’s honesty.
“I am going to talk to the other fish. I will not ask them to return my scales, but I am going to ask them to remember all the ways they are special and encourage them to use the gifts they have been blessed with. Thank you, Seymour!”
Seymour watched as Rainbow Fish swam towards his new friends, each of their shimmering scales reflecting the light. As the fish gathered around Rainbow Fish, the wise old octopus came out of her dark cave.
Living in darkness all those years had made her eyesight very weak, and catching her meals had become increasingly more difficult.
But now that all the fish each had a bright, shiny scale, she was able to pick them off quite easily.
She was, after all, a very wise octopus….