"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

All I Need To Learn I Learn From Children's Books: Fish Is Fish (BOOK 3)


This is Book 3 of a series entitled "All I Need To Learn I Learn From Children's Books."

Book Details:

Title: Fish Is Fish
Author: Leo Lionni

Publisher: Dragonfly Books
Year/Date Published: 

Point Of Departure: Fish Is Fish


I often use this story during my retreats when I like to illustrate the existence of varrying worlds which at first may not seem to exist but upon further thought these worlds are very real. Two friends, a tadpole and a fish, live inseparably in a pond until the tadpole becomes a frog and leaves. He brings back fantastic descriptions of the outside world and the fish tries to explore this other world for himself. However, he finds out that he cannot breathe outside the water and is saved by the frog.

Today's BOOK 3 of All I Need To Learn I Learn From Children's Books is a very fitting modern-day parable to understand the underlying meaning about being born of water and spirit for one to enter the Kingdom of God which Jesus taught to his disciples.

"Finding Frog" In Nature

I remember the animated film "Finding Nemo" which I consider a well-written story built on contemplating the life of a fish in nature. Fish Is Fish is similar in that respect. Richard Rohr, in his book, "On The Threshold Of Transformation Daily Meditations for Men," p. 49, talks about the need to find oneself in nature as something very basic human experience. According to him, "Abraham, Moses, Job, Jonah, Elijah, and Jesus all had life-changing religious experiences in natural settings, not in man-made buildings or even sacred sites. Rather, the sites became sacred after, and because, they were the locations of life-changing experiences." He adds that there is a craving for contact with the "substantial, the solid, the authentic, and the eternal" which results to a deep experience of awe, e.g., encounter with ruins and artifacts, ancient caves and carvings, arrowheads and pottery. Rohr considers this experience as human being's "search for our ancient soul, our uncluttered originality in God--or as the Eastern masters say, 'the face you had before you were born'."

This modern parable about the fish and the frog illustrates to us about the primal encounter. The frog was first to have the actual encounter when he went about the natural world above water. When he returned to tell the fish about what he saw out there, the fish in turn undergoes quite a different process of cognition. The frog and the fish are akin to two types of human beings who both journey towards "knowing what we have always known but somehow forgot." According to Rohr, there is great necessity to find ourselves in nature because if not, religion will have a little ability to broker and guide us in the journey. "Religion merely seconds the motion."

Word Of God:

1. John 3:1-8 (No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.)

Questions and Considerations to Ponder:

1. Think of your journey at this period of the Covid-19 pandemic as the life journey of these two friends. Where are you in the story? Who are you in the story? Are you like the frog who describes birds, cows and people, while the fish imagines them as fishlike creatures with a few special features? 

Most would say that such creatures do not exist. Challenge yourself ask for the reasons? The story clearly shows that there is one major difference between the frog and the fish. One of them cannot breathe outside of water.

2. Is it possible to know that something exists even if they are invisible? Differentite between imagining and experiencing. It’s easy to imagine things in our heads. But how do we know that what we are imagining is not real? Could it be real?

3. During the COVID-19 lockdown have you ever felt like you were in a dream? It is real but you feel like you would like to wake up from this bad dream. If it felt real but was still a dream, how do you accept this new reality?

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

John 3:1-8

No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Commentary (Credits: Universalis.com)

As soon as the first week of rejoicing at the Resurrection of Jesus is over the Church begins to put before us the great discourses of Jesus (the teaching rather than the happenings) in the Gospel of John These readings from John will continue right through Paschaltide. It is surely not an accident that the series begins with the response to Jesus from the faithful in the two great sacraments of initiation, Baptism in John 3 and the Eucharist in John 6. Or, to be more exact, the offer of Jesus in these two great sacraments to which the faithful respond.
  Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, and that is highly significant in John. Jesus is the light of the world, and when Judas goes out to betray Jesus John tells us (13.30) that it was night. Nicodemus begins thoroughly muddled, and is rebuked for his failure to understand about the freedom of the Spirit, his failure to understand his own tradition. But Nicodemus is the figure of discovery, the discovery that every Christian makes again and again, he will come alright in the end, for he took part in the burial of Jesus. He is perhaps the example of the good Pharisee, for John stresses that salvation comes from the Jews (4.22), and some at least believed. It is perhaps significant that only here (verses 3 and 5) does the formulation ‘kingdom of God’ come in John. This was the traditional formula for the ideal, the perfection of creation so vividly promised by Isaiah and the rest of the prophets. For the Pharisees it consisted in perfect obedience to the will of God, when the demands of the Law would be fully observed. 
  Throughout this story of discovery we can feel that the Spirit of God breathes where it will. Both in Greek and in Hebrew the same word means also ‘wind’ and ‘breath’. We cannot control the wind. The wind blows where it wills, and no more can we control the Spirit of God.