Monday, January 05, 2015

2015-01-04 A Year With The Harvard Classics - The Flounder Fish Story

January 4 - A Flounder Fish Story:  A fisherman, so the story goes, once caught a flounder that spoke, begging to be released.  This was granted,whereupon the fisherman's wife demanded that it grant her one miracle after another until even the flounder was disgusted.

Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will

The tale of the Fisherman and His Wife, recorded by the Brother's Grim, is an old German fairy-tale ostensibly about what becomes those who are greedy (click HERE for an online version of the story). In the story a talking flounder is caught and released and grants a series of requests by the one caught him, on behalf of his wife, for ever increasing places and then positions of power until a request to be like God returns the wife and her fisherman husband to their original state of destitution.

On the surface this is a morality tale which has been used throughout the years to teach the terrors of greed.  And from a moral frame such lessons seem appropriate.  However, from a theological frame, the lesson might well be that the desire to be "like unto God" may well be to embrace life as it is in all of its mundane ordinariness.  

It reminds me of a tale by Edward Hays in his book Feathers in the Wind.

Once upon a time there was a woman who longed to find out what heaven is like. She prayed constantly, “O God, grant me in this life a vision of paradise.” She prayed in this way for years until one night she had a dream. In her dream an angel came and led her to an ordinary looking house. The angel, pointing toward the house said, “Go and look inside.”

So the woman walked in the house and found a person preparing supper, another reading the newspaper, and children playing with their toys. Naturally, she was disappointed and returned to the angel on the street. “Is that all there is to heaven?”

The angel replied, “Those people you saw in that house are not in paradise, paradise is in them!”

May we remember that the qualities of paradise most worth "having" are those we we possess within not those we seek to own or have bestowed upon us.

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