It was dinner time, and two fish lay in elegant plates on the table before us. At this point in the trip – my first to China for some kung fu training – this was expected. Every dinner featured one, usually two, very whole and complete fish. But there was one thing that I felt I didn’t quite have a grasp on yet. Fortunately, I was seated next to Sifu that night.
“Sifu,” I asked, “What’s the secret to serving fish, so that you don’t get any bones?”
He paused, smiled, and said, “Don’t eat fish.”
It took me a moment, but I got it.
And like many things fish related, it went well beyond the realm of fish.
To eat fish is to get bones. If you’ve made the choice to eat fish, to go down that route, then bones should be, if not expected at least predicted. As the expression goes, it comes with the territory.
So too in many of our lifelong activities. Down certain paths, especially many worthwhile paths, there are things that will come up, things we will encounter, things we need to deal with, that, while not inevitable, there is a chance (and perhaps likely) that they will arise.
To get caught up in frustration or upset or “shouldn’ts” is, in some ways, kinda weird. We made the choice. We said we wanted fish. And lo, here are the bones of that fish.
It needn’t, of course, descend into fatalism or cynicism – that is as much an illusion as imagining boneless fish forever. Possibility doesn’t live at the extremes.
Inside possibility, we swim and dance down those worthwhile paths, seeking what we desire, dealing with and putting aside the bones that arise with clarity, peace and grace.
And sometimes, in the most literal way, we serve ourselves and eat some very delicious fish.