Two young fish swimming along happened to pass an older fish swimming the other way. He nodded at them and yelled out, “Morning boys. How’s the water?”
The two young fish swam on for a bit, and then one of them looked over at the other and said, “Hey, what the heck is water?”
The moral of the fish story: Fish are the last one’s to recognise water.
In other words, the most obvious, important realities in our lives are the hardest to see, and the most difficult to talk about. Knowledge is nothing, awareness is everything. Awareness of what is real and essential, yet so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over that’s it’s there.
“Hey, how’s the water!”
A violinist was busking at a metro station in Washington DC on a cold January morning during rush hour.
He played six Bach pieces, lasting around 45 minutes. During his performance, 1097 people passed him by. Of that total 7 stopped to listen, and 19 gave him money. He collected $32 in total. When he finished playing nobody applauded; no one even noticed he had stopped playing.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, former child prodigy and now one of the world’s great violinists. He had just played six of the most intricate pieces of music ever written, on his $3.5 million violin. Two days before Joshua Bell had given a sell out performance in Boston at $100.00 a ticket.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by The Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.
For me it raises one interesting and fundamental question: Like the kid who films the paper bag blowing in the wind in American Beauty, how many beautiful things do you pass on the street every day of your life without ever noticing one of them?
A six year old girl, running around on Manly beach with her mother, suddenly points and cries out “Look Mum, a fairy”.
Her mother, seemingly at the end of her domestic tether, snaps “Don’t be silly”. And then she delivers the crunch line: “There’s no such thing as fairies.”
So the child, a stray in the backwoods of rationality, is brought up to see the world in the prosaic terms of grown-ups, and forgets she ever saw a fairy.
Eventually fairies walk around unseen any more.
Try this quiz:
- Name the 3 highest paid CEO’s in Australia.
- Name the last 3 Australian Open winners.
- Name the last 3 Australians Of The Year.
- Name the last 3 Academy Award winners for best actress.
- Name 3 people who have won the Pulitzer prize.
How did you do? Not too well I imagine.
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields.But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
- List 3 teachers who made your journey through school awesome.
- Name 3 friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
- Name 3 people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Think of 3 people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
- Think of 3 people you enjoy spending time with.
Easier? You bet. And that’s because the people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that give a shit, and who have made a difference to YOU.
So why not share this post with some of them … :)