The Fisherman and His Nets


Earlier this week, I took a wonderful class with my friend J, who is an Anusara teacher based in NYC.  She started class telling a story of a fisherman.  The fisherman had worked hard and long during the spring, summer, and fall and was looking forward to a rest during the winter months.  He left his boat and went ashore, looking for shelter.  He came upon a brightly lit house and was invited in by a friendly host.  He was given a delicious meal and then brought to a beautiful bedroom with a fabulously made, soft bed with exquisitely scented linens.  He got into the bed, but tossed and turned and could not sleep.  Agitated by his inability to sleep, he left the house, went back to his boat, wrapped himself in his fishy-smelling nets and promptly fell sound asleep.

J interpreted the story as saying that our familiar patterns bind us and keep us from discovering and receiving true beauty and bliss.  This interpretation resonated with the students; one called out in a conversation about the quantity of nets we have, that she could alphabetize hers, and we all laughed.  I heard something different in the story, though perhaps it was because I had seen part of The Wizard of Oz when channel-surfing in my hotel room the night before.  What I heard was that when we accept our work and our place, we find a place of true rest.  When the fisherman realized that his place was on his boat — at home with his work, instead of seeking ethereal bliss — then he found peace and true rest (“there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…”)

What is missing from the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, though, is that in later books, Dorothy goes back to the land of Oz, bringing her family and work (albeit that of a child) with her.  She, in effect, integrates the importance of prosaic home and work life with being in a land of enchantment.  In that, both interpretations of the story of the fisherman are partly true.  We need not to let our old habits bind us, but we also need not to cast off work, home, and community as things that interfere with our discovering bliss.  Instead, we need to find enchantment in our very being, as we live and work and relate in this world.


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