I have written and received so much correspondence over the past year. There is also my participation in online media resources using the internet. There is Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and blogging. There is email. I remain aware and learning, while I flow back and forth across this strange surging ethereal sea of communication. I reflect on what I read, process the reflections, and then write works of analysis and consideration. One of the most common strains of conversational tone I run across is the one of integrity declared. This is my phrase (integrity declared) for the people who constantly tell me that they tell the truth, no matter how much it hurts. They tell me, and write around me, of the necessity required by both business and relationship to always be honest and truthful. That no great success in either area can be had without it. They tell me that they only tell the truth and would never be dishonest. I have to admit I am frequently vexed but more often entertained by this kind of delivery. And it is a constant, never changing, litany that seem to cross all cultural borders and barriers. Only this evening I was reminded of this by a woman who works out in Hawaii. She had written a short missive on Twitter about how it appeared that the market in Hawaii was on the way to recovery, with much activity over the last few days. When I commented that I had never heard a realtor every say, at any time, that right now was not the best time to buy, I got the integrity presentation delivered hot and fast over the net. I backed off. I am not out here to confront, or make miserable, the people who correspond with me. Sometimes my blog here might indicate otherwise, but in reality I do not seek to attack individuals for what they think or believe. I do like to disagree with them, however.
In light of the subject I have chosen to discuss herein, I would like to tell you a story. It is a true story, and it happened several years ago on the shore of a place called Bainbridge Island. That Island lies seven miles across the Sound from the city of Seattle in Washington State.
It was early morning when I looked out from the deck of my second story office, which was located in my home on the shore of Puget Sound. It was already a fine day, with the sun rising behind the spit of land my house was located on, and Mount Ranier half lit on the Southern horizon across the gently moving waters. I looked down to the Lagoon below. It was a rather large lagoon, spanning about forty yards across the narrowest of it's oval shape. Earlier in the year I had built a wooden pier that reached out about ten yards straight from the house on my side of the shore. I had built the pier so that the triplets, living at the other end of the lagoon could come visit on a paddle boat I had purchased for that purpose the summer before. The triplets were three children six years of age. Two boys and a girl. They had named the paddle boat 'Bubbles' so I had dutifully painted the name on both sides of the pontoons which kept it afloat. Some days they would vigorously paddle over to my pier, be greeted by Harvey, my dog-like cat, and Tank, the large seagull who always sat on one of the high poles at the end of the pier. I kept a supply of those popsicles, the ones with the funny idiotic sayings printed onto the sticks, in my freezer, as the trips' parents would not let them have such sweet things.
This morning I noted that the Lagoon was faintly aromatic. I looked over toward the far shore and confirmed my suspicions. The far shore abutted the Sound itself. Normally, there was a narrow inlet of water that ran between the Lagoon and the waters of the Sound. The constantly working tides usually kept the small stream open and running. That movement of water allowed the lagoon to be refreshed and healthy. I noted, with a frown, that the stream was no more. A bad tide had moved the small, golf ball sized stones, just enough to close the gap. I sighed. Something would have to be done.
I threw on my jeans, boots and logging shirt, went to the back door, selected a pointed shovel, then made my way down to the shore along the bracken, following a well worn path Harvey and I took at least twice a day. I found the course of the old outlet and began to dig. Harvey found a large flat rock nearby to recline on, and provide moral support from.
The work was hard. The stones did not take to shoveling at all well. It took a full hour to dig half way to the Sound. I sat against one wall of my four foot deep trench to rest and reflect. I saw a line of miniature people approaching from the South. It was the triplets. They were walking in a single file, each with a small shovel over their shoulder. I waited until they arrived. "Hey you guys," I said, and waved with a big smile. One of the boys, Mark, was very expressive and yelled back, as they approached "Hi, Mr. Strauss, we've come to help you." I laughed aloud at that. The other boy, Tom, just smiled his usual little smile, while Anna, the triplet leader held up an arm. They stopped mid-way down the finished part of the trench. "We'll begin work here, Mr. Strauss," she stated imperiously, with no smile or wave. I nodded at this industriousness and set back to work. I threw rocks for another fifteen minutes before I had to rest. I leaned on the shovel and looked back.
Anna was sitting on one edge of the trench watching her two brothers. Mark and Tom had worked to drag a pile of driftwood to the edge of the divide and were carefully assembling some sort of edifice right in the center of the trench. I shook my head and walked back to where they worked. "What are you two doing?" I asked, with a moody serious expression. The boys looked up at me, then bent down and continued their efforts. "They're building a fish trap, Mr. Strauss," Anna said from her position nearby. The boys continued to work. I looked down at them in exasperation. "You can't build a fish trap out of wood. The wood will just float away when the water comes through," I argued, to no avail. "You can't catch a fish in such a contraption." I tried again. Anna appeared at my side and grabbed my hand. She nodded to me when I looked down, then applied some pressure to move me back in the direction I'd come. When we got back to where I had been working she let go of my hand. I looked back at her laboring brothers and was about to speak. She shook her head at me, so I said nothing. She reached up carefully and grasped my shirt near the collar. I bent down to her pull. Very seriously she looked into my eyes. "Mr. Strauss, the fish does not have to be real," she said.
What Anna said to me resounded out of that Lagoon, across the Sound and echoed straight into the marrow of my life. And the lives of almost everyone who has come into contact with me. At my company the expression "the fish does not have to be real" is stated over and over again. It is applied to situations wherein people are just being too damn serious. To situations wherein people are claiming that they have the highest integrity. That they never lie. That truth is this precious commodity that is just of too much value to do anything other than be admitted to and recognized.
Physics is real. Gravity is real. Water boiling at a certain temperature and pressure is real. But this phenomenal world we have created to survive in is not. Even the physics of that phenomenal world do not necessarily have to be real. It all depends upon perspective, belief, needs, wants and desires. And therefore, once this is realized, the world becomes a different place altogether. To survive in the real world we need to lighten up in the phenomenal. We need to become more flexible about understanding this place we inhabit and the fellow travelers we run with. The next time that somebody around you tells you that they have never told a lie, then tell this story and say these words: "The fish does not have to be real."