A long way out in the deep blue sea there lived a fish.
Not just an ordinary fish, but the most beautiful fish in the
entire ocean. His scales were every shade of blue and
green and purple, with sparkling silver scales among them.
He had not yet learned to value himself, which means:
He had not yet learned to fight for his happiness.
The other fish — who lacked the courage of their own greatness —
were amazed at his beauty. They called him Rainbow Fish.
“Come on, Rainbow Fish,” they would call.
“Come and play with us!”
But the Rainbow Fish would just glide past,
proud and silent, letting his scales shimmer.
Would it have been fit for him to mix with them?
One day, a little blue fish followed after him.
“Rainbow Fish,” he called, “wait for me!
Please give me one of your shiny scales.
They are so wonderful, and you have so many.”
Children, this is the first treason.
The giving of gifts is a betrayal of your own birthright.
“You want me to give you one of my special scales?
Joy is the goal of existence, and joy is not to be stumbled upon,
but to be achieved!
Who do you think you are?” cried the Rainbow Fish.
“Get away from me!”
Shocked, the little blue fish swam away. He was so upset; he
told all his friends what had happened.
He and his friends were moochers and looters;
idling, trifling, stifling non-producers.
From then on, no one would have anything to do with the
Rainbow Fish. They turned away when he swam by.
The word “We” is as lime poured over men,
which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes
all beneath it, and that which is white and that
which is black are lost equally in the grey of it.
It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue
of the good, by which the weak steal the might
of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.
What is joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it?
What is wisdom, if even the fools can dictate?
What is freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and impotent, are masters?
Ah, the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder,
of misery, falsehood and shame.
And the other fish were “We,” and the Rainbow Fish alone was “I.”
What good were the dazzling, shimmering scales with no one to admire them?
Now he was the loneliest fish in the entire ocean.
The Rainbow Fish had yet to learn that achievement of one’s own happiness
is the only moral purpose in life —
that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence is the real proof
of moral integrity, since it is the result of your loyalty
to the achievement of your values.
But he did not yet realize this, so he poured out his sorrows to the starfish.
“I really am beautiful. Why doesn’t anybody like me?”
(Ah, children, self-respect is something that can’t be killed!)
“I can’t answer that for you,” said the starfish.
(No one can give you answers, children; no one can master you)
“Personally, I’d give the scales away. But if you go beyond the coral reef to a deep cave
you will find the wise octopus. Maybe she can help you.”
The Rainbow Fish found the cave. It was very dark inside and he couldn’t see anything.
(Children! Man is blind, because he has eyes — deaf, because he has ears —
deluded, because he has a mind —
and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them!)
Then suddenly two eyes caught him in their glare and the octopus emerged from the darkness.
“I have been waiting for you,” said the octopus.
“The waves have told me your story. This is my advice.
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps
of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul
perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach.
The world you desire can be won. It exists…it is real…it is possible…it is yours.”
“I don’t understand,” the Rainbow Fish said. “The starfish told me to give away
my shining scales. He said that if I gave them away, I would no longer be the most beautiful
fish in the sea, but that I would learn to be happy.”
“What is freedom?” the octopus asked.
“To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.”
“Wait –” the Rainbow Fish cried,
but the octopus had already disappeared into
a dark cloud of ink.
To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.
Suddenly he felt the light touch of a fin. The little blue fish was back!
“Rainbow Fish, please, don’t be angry. I just want one little scale.” The Rainbow Fish wavered.
Only one very very small shimmery scale, he thought. Maybe I wouldn’t miss just one.
Carefully the Rainbow Fish pulled out the smallest scale and gave it to the little fish.
“Thank you! Thank you very much!” The little blue fish bubbled playfully, as he tucked the shiny
scale in among his blue ones. A rather peculiar feeling came over the Rainbow Fish. For a long
time he watched the little blue fish swim back and forth with his new scale glittering in the water.
The little blue fish whizzed through the ocean with his scale flashing, so it didn’t take long
before the Rainbow Fish was surrounded by the other fish. Everyone wanted a glittering scale.
He realized then there was no end to their greed,
that they would not be satisfied until he had given away all his scales,
that they would stop at nothing to make him like themselves,
dull and stripped bare and part of the faceless, nameless “We.”
And he rejected the cowardice of the mob.
“I am a fish who does not exist for others,” he said.
“I have come here to say that I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life.
And I have come here to say: give back my scale to me.”
And the little blue fish recognized the Rainbow Fish had the greater claim to it.
But still he did not return the scale.
It was a lesson the Rainbow Fish never forgot.
It was the last present he ever gave a lesser being.
From that day forward he lived only for himself.
Children, will you be like the Rainbow Fish?
I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being.
I am the warrant and the sanction.
And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth;
This god whom men have sought since men came into being,
This god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.
This one word
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.