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Three fish in a lake – a Persian story by Rumi

Once upon a time there was a big lake in a faraway country. Three shiny, fat fish lived in it, very peacefully. One of them was cunning, the second was wise and the third just plain stupid. Now one day, some fisherman came to the edge of the lake. They placed their boats in the water, pushed them from the shore and threw out their nets. All three fish noticed the danger that was about to disrupt their peaceful lives.

Seeing the fishermen and their nets, the cunning fish decided at once to leave and make the long, difficult trip to the ocean. He thought, “I won’t consult with the other two on this. They will only weaken my resolve. Because they love this place so - they even call it home - their ignorance will keep them here.”. And so he swam away…

After the cunning fish had left, the wise fish thought, “My friend has gone. Maybe I ought to have gone with him, but I didn’t, and now I might have lost my chance to escape.”.

He mourned the absence of his friend for a while and then thought, “What can I do to save myself from these men and their nets? Perhaps if I pretend to be already dead! I’ll belly up on the surface and float like weeds float, just giving myself totally to the water and to whatever is about to happen. I will pretend to have died, before I truly die, and keep my eye on the possibilities that will pass me by.”. He did just that. There he bobbed, up and down, helpless, within arm’s reach of the fishermen.

“Look at this!” the fishermen said, “That big fish is already dead. Toss it away!”. So, one of the men lifted him from the water by the tail and threw him to the shore. The wise fish rolled over and over and slid secretly near the water, and then… slid back in.

Meanwhile, the third fish was agitatedly jumping about, trying to escape with his force and cleverness. Halas, the net - of course - finally closed in around him. The fishermen grabbed him from their nets, placed him in a bucket and took him home.

Later that day, as he lay in a terrible frying-pan surrounded by garlic, lime and rosemary, he thought, “If I get out of this, never again I will stay in the limits of that big lake. Next time, I will head for the vast, infinite ocean! Next time, I will definitely make that infinite my home. Next time…”.

You might be wise, or you might even be cunning. But please, don’t be the stupid one!

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