(How Forest the Fish Helped Me Realize the Unnamed God“)
One day last week I drove up to our local post office. In front of me on a telephone pole was a hand-scrawled sign “My goldfish Forrest needs a new home.” I took down the phone number, hoping the little guy was still available to come and live with the other 150 or so fish in my backyard pool/converted fishpond.
A few days later, after half a dozen phone calls, I met up with Forests’ owner. She handed him over to me in a large olive jar. He got the name Forrest because she won him in Forrestville a year or so ago. Forest looked slightly bewildered as he swam up and down through the 8 inches of so of water which was his world right then. I kept thinking of what a lucky fish he was, to have us arranging for his new life.
I carefully drove him home tucked carefully on the passenger seat in my van. I reflected on a time in 2002, when I let my daughter’s four goldfish free into the pond. They had been in a small tank for 7 years or so. Three of them went into the water and swam into the depths, but the fourth did something that amazes me to this day. Upon emptying him into the pond he swam just under the surface in a square, outlining exactly the size of his former tank. Even though no boundary really existed other than the walls of the large pool, he swam what he knew, around and around. Eventually one of the other fish came over and seemed to nudge him as if to say “Hey, Dude, you got the whole world here! Explore! You are free!” The squares became more and more oblique. Soon he was circumambulating the entire perimeter of the pool. This is one of my favorite memories!
But back to Forrest. All the way home I held an image of releasing Forrest and watching him swoosh down into the water, coming up to the surface again, reborn into a new reality. When I got home I looked long and hard at Forrest hoping to be able to identify him again later. I went out to the pond, and lowered the jar over the side, spilling little Forrest into the pool. Out he went with an anticlimactic flop. Rather than swooping up dramatically as I had anticipated, he disappeared into the dark, deep water.
As I waited for Forrest to surface, something in me shifted. Slowly some of the other fish surfaced, I thought, “Is that one Forrest? Or that one?” I became filled with the dawning of a realization. It came to me like the answer to a koan. Some universal synchronicity bellowed loudly.
The moment I released Forrest, he was released from his name. He went from being Forrest the single fish to one embodiment of many. I might never be able to identify him by a single name again.
I slowly walked inside, a changed person. I remembered that releasing fish is one of the sacred acts during Saka Dawa, this month of June, which holds Shakyamuni’s birth, enlightenment and pari-nirvana. Forrest the fish had just delivered me a teaching on Interfaith consciousness, returning to the Divine, which runs through all beings, Named and Unnamed, tamed or untamed.