“Salmon of Wisdom
Dodging hazelnuts swims the hungry salmon, swallowing the nuts as they plunge into the depths. Pity the poor pondskater skimming the surface while beneath lies the kernel of wisdom, waiting for those who plunge deep below their surface and get their feet wet.”
That bit of oddness represents a page in my notebook. I have but the vaguest recollection of writing it. I know I was sitting on the kitchen step… I know there was wine… and I can see the context of the conversation from the notes either side. We were obviously deep in discussion of something or other.
Which has nothing whatsoever to do with the Salmon of Wisdom. Or pondskaters.
I cannot remember the entire conversation that surrounded the notes, though reading them brings back the essence of it. I can’t even recall if this bit was mine. It can be difficult to say when the conversations go so deep and phrases, ideas and sparks are passed one to another, each adding something to the growing light of understanding. It doesn’t really matter… copyright notwithstanding, you cannot exclusively own an idea, only share them.
I do know it was born of one of the ancient tales, so can guess it was introduced to the conversation by Stuart who drew upon them for Crucible of the Sun and more recently for a story on his blog. One version of the story tells that a salmon swimming in the Well of Wisdom ate nine hazelnuts that fell into the water, from the nine hazel trees that grew around it, thus gaining all the knowledge of the worlds. Anyone who ate of the fish would also gain that knowledge. The salmon may have been an ordinary fish, or one of the immortals, that it could be eaten and yet not die.
The trees have the hazelnuts… they fall into the water, which indicates a transformation and the fish has them too. Knowledge exists in the outer world and falls into the depths. The fish, swimming in the depths and following its instinct to feed , can acquire knowledge that has become understanding by being taken into the inner being… and perhaps that is where the wisdom comes in; something that cannot be lessened by being consumed… like the fish that does not die when it is eaten.
Pondskaters, on the other hand…Some have wings and may reach the nuts in the tree, but they are too fragile, too frail to pierce the shell and eat. Their natural milieu is the water’s surface, poised between the worlds, neither in one nor the other, unable to break the surface tension of the water and swim in the depths. The pondskater can see both worlds, yet is unable to assimilate the kernel, the inner heart of wisdom.
I remember the essence of the conversation, and it was quite specific at the time. But finding those lines in the notebook, I realised that the wider analogy we were speaking of could be applied equally to the many levels of our own being. There is the purely physical where the kernels of knowledge grow as experiences that fall into our lives. There is the part of us that instinctively feeds upon those experiences, each coloured by the flowing emotions they evoke as we try to understand them. With enough, we may find wisdom, which, although it cannot be shared in the precise way knowledge can be shared, can be brought into the world and will only grow with the more who partake of it from each of us. And then there is the pondskater.
Bounded by its very design and nature, our consciousness belongs in both the inner and outer world, the realms of both knowledge and understanding and, though unable to fully access either for itself, can see them both. Perhaps, as we define reality through observation, that is its role… to witness and thus make real … realise… what exists beyond its reach. Being of both worlds and neither, perhaps its apparent lack of ability to access wisdom allows it to observe and create in the purest sense a reality that can hold and see wisdom and trace its beginnings in knowledge and experience.
I wonder if the pondskater ever asks where the trees came from? Or why the water is so deep?