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Cowfish Out Of Water

Cowfish: the one that got awayI was in the sea, snorkeling I think, or maybe diving. It was a long time ago. The sun heaved magnificent light into an already magnificent ocean, and all was bathed in lucid unearthly beauty below.

I was very fond of cowfish. They were like cartoons, little horns like raised eyebrows, boxy bodies puffing happily in and out as in a fit of laughter, big dark eyes, two arms fluttering – seemingly too small to do for anything but decoration. They always looked young, with childlike curiosity, as if so sure their own cuteness would keep them out of danger.

Their colours varied like all things in the sea, wearing different shades even when a cloud passed overhead. They were always brilliant, as if generating their own light, and always in such complex detail as if embroidered with a very fine needle and silk.

Someone caught one in one hand. The hand broke the surface and there she lay on the broad of the palm, in the raw blades of the sun, with no significant fins or tail to flip her back to safety. Her body looked instantly starved, the skin now dry in mottled greys stretched over a tiny twitching skeleton, eyes like dull flakes of flint, mouth and gills straining and sucking for a life she might never feel again.

I, like the cowfish, did not know the intentions of the human hand. For all we knew she’d breathed her last of the ocean, in the homely gardens of a coral maze. I held my breath with her, unable to speak or act in a daze of horror. The hand closed around her again

and let her go.

She puffed downwards as if squirted from the bulb of a pipette, her colours instantly proud and resplendent in the sun, now through its proper lens of sea. And she was gone.

I was told that it was all for me—so I may have a closer look at her when she was still. Still, I thought. But it was not her at all. Fish are colour and movement. I saw only the shrouds of death closing around her. Ridiculous. How can she be herself when she is in the air. I remained silent for a long time.

If it is true that fish have short memories then she would have been unchanged by the trauma, but I carry it with me everywhere. I glimpse her when I feel coerced by others—even when their intentions are innocent—to be something other than myself. True, I am in no mortal danger, but I am reminded that what is comfortable for others may be harmful for me. She reminds me to allow others their freedom too; to let them be as God made them, in their own proper environment. Only then may we each laugh and let our colours shine as He intended. I still have a way to go, but the shock of the cowfish makes me try.

“Accept God’s Will
Happily,
Rejoice in God’s Will
Proudly,
And move on with God’s Will
Speedily.”

—Sri Chinmoy
Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, 25101

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