Fish Philosophy

Imagine you are a fish in a pond.

While in school, your teacher tries to convince you that it is impossible to see through water.  Of course this seems ridiculous to you at first, but then he stirs up the mud at the bottom of the pond.  Soon the entire pond is completely clouded.  You cannot even see the fish around you or the teacher.  “See?”  Your teacher says, “you are in water and you cannot see.  Now you know that it is impossible to see through water.”

Some of you and your classmates recognize that it is not water that is blocking your vision, but the mud that your teacher spread in front of you that makes it impossible to see.  You recognize that when the mud settles, you will again be able to see again like normal, because the mud and water will again be separated.

But some of the fish begin to feel confused and lost.  In panic, they turn to the teacher for help.  The teacher replies, “The only safe place is the bottom of the pond.  At least there, you can feel something beneath you.”  They follow, because they don’t know what else to do.

As the mud settles, they are buried in the mud.  Their “new perception” that mud is the same as water is therefore confirmed in their minds, and they remain in the much ever after.

Though unhappy in their new state, they pride themselves on their new understanding, wondering how they could have ever been deluded into thinking that what they once experienced was sight.  They scoff at the fish above, swimming happily about the pond.  They mock them, telling them that their childish belief in “Clear” water is just a tradition that their parents convinced them of.  They say, “Yeah, we once thought as you do, but now we see what water really is.  Sight is an illusion.  You cannot trust your senses.  The only safe place is the bottom of the pond.”

The wise know the difference between the mud and the water.

My Musical Journey: The Message

The Message

When I was nine, my sister Ria had piano lessons. Being the little brother, I thought I should be able to have piano lessons, too. To me it looked like fun, and I wanted a turn. So mom signed me up.

A lady in our neighborhood, who was also in our ward, taught many kids piano lessons, and for only $3 a week, it was a pretty good way to go, though I didn’t find out until later what a generous teacher I had to charge such a small fee for those valuable lessons.

The lessons were fun, and I learned all the basic musical terms and skills, and obtained a very basic piano proficiency. By the time I had been taking lessons for a year, however, I was tired of practicing, and after a few weeks of dragging my feet, I stopped going to piano lessons.

Years went by, and I didn’t touch my piano books. They were a thing of the past, and any time I considered playing, I remembered how boring practice was, so from the time I stopped the lessons, I stopped playing the piano entirely.

As a young man of fourteen, I loved listening to music while drifting off to sleep. I would stick in a favorite cassette and let it play through to the end. However long it took me to fall asleep, I would always get completely wrapped up in the music. As I made a habit of this, I soon found that the mere act of turning on music and closing my eyes did something to me. It was as if the sounds were wrapping around me, filling me. I don’t know how to describe it, but that simple, quiet music had an overwhelming effect on my whole system.

It was at that time that I came to a realization of the power of music – just a few simple notes, played at just the right… well, everything! The tempo was perfect, the notes were perfect, played at the perfect volume at just the right moments. What was it about this mix of sounds that drew a person in so completely? Was it the flawless skill of the artist, or was it something independent of the musician? Did the music itself somehow convey the sense of completeness and power that I felt?

Much of the music I listened to was religious music, and the powerful feelings I felt while listening to that music were always accompanied by an intense spiritual high that made me want to be better, do more good, and reach out more to bless the lives of more people. But a lot of the music I listened to was simple New Age music, which at that time was sometimes called Easy Listening music.

One night, while listening to some of this gentle music, I felt something unique – or I heard something, but with my feelings rather than my ears. It was as if someone or something was sending a clear message through while my mind and heart were in such a susceptible state. The message was simply this: “You can give this gift to others.”

I lay motionless, still wrapped in the feelings and power of the music. The words had been clear. You can give this gift to others. What gift? Music? The ability to play music? The feelings that the music expressed? Though the message had been clear, I didn’t know for sure what it meant.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was time to go beyond simply listening to and enjoying music. I needed to make music.

But how? I didn’t play any musical instruments, and my voice was nasally and boisterous. I would have to learn to play an instrument. A flute? A brass instrument? I didn’t have any instruments, and I didn’t have access to any instruments – except…

Yes. The piano. The family had a piano. I would would get out my old lesson books and start learning to play first thing after school the next day.