Once upon a time there was a young merman who lived in a beautiful kingdom deep in the ocean. Ever since he had been born he had always been surrounded by magnificent coral reefs, exotic sea creatures and the breath-taking architecture of the mer-people. Yet he never seemed happy, as he always saw the worst in everything and was critical of those around him. Of course, this made him very unpopular with the other mermen and mermaids, and he often found himself alone, thinking about how awful everything and everyone was.
He did, however, have one friend; the eldest and wisest merman in the kingdom. This old merman had known the young merman’s parents for a very long time, and he knew that the boy had never had any friends because of his negative attitude. The wise merman felt sorry for the boy, and so, when he could, he would take some time to talk to the boy and try to help him.
One morning the boy and the wise merman were taking a gentle swim through the kingdom. The wise merman was admiring what a beautiful morning it was turning out to be, but the boy could only notice that the water was colder than he liked it and that the dolphins were being too playful and noisy.
“But what about the coral?” suggested the old merman. “Aren’t the colours glorious today?”
“I guess,” the boy shrugged. “If you happen to like orange, red and pink.”
The old merman looked at the boy for a moment, before the boy finished, “Which I don’t.”
The old merman sighed, wondering if he would ever be able to think of something to make the boy happy. He wrapped the end of his long, white beard around his finger and then unwrapped it again.
“Well,” he said, “I should be on my way. I have a class to teach”.
“What are teaching today?” asked the boy.
“Today I’ll be teaching about God.”
“Yes, God. Have you never heard of God?”
“No. How would I? I’ve never been to any of your lessons.”
“Hmm.” The old merman stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Well, that is a shame. Cheerio then.”
As the old merman began to leave the boy stopped him.
“Hey! Aren’t you going to tell me what it is?”
“What what is?”
“Oh, I see. Well, you can find God everywhere really…”
“Everywhere? But that’s impossible…. Isn’t it?”
“No, it’s very possible.”
“Well, what does it look like then?”
“It looks like you, and me, and the dolphins and the coral….”
The boy frowned at the old merman. “So God isn’t really anything at all?”
The wise, old merman smiled at the boy for a brief moment and then turned away to leave.
“You tell me!” he said as he swam away. “Go and find it and then tell me if it isn’t really anything at all!”
The young merman swam around the kingdom aimlessly for a while, feeling cross about the nonsense the old merman had been speaking.
“What rubbish,” thought the boy. “God looks like everything? God can’t be very special then!”
Frowning, he looked around him, at the buildings, the mer-people and the shimmering fish. Then he remembered the old merman’s words.
“Fine,” he thought. “I’ll look for it, and then I’ll tell him what I think!”
The boy swam straight up to a dolphin, folded his arms across his chest and stared at it.
“So you’re God, are you?”
The dolphin looked at the boy and grinned. The boy didn’t grin back.
“God has a chunk missing from its fin and has bits of fish caught in its teeth, does it?! How stupid!”
The boy swam off, leaving behind the dolphin who had started to laugh.
The boy was in such a bad mood whilst he was swimming that he swam right into a beautiful mermaid with long, golden hair. She looked cross at first, but her face softened and she smiled at the boy.
“You must be in a rush to get somewhere,” she said gently.
“Not really,” the boy replied.
“Well, just try to be careful then, you wouldn’t want to hurt someone.”
Another frown appeared on the boys face and he swam on.
“Well, she can’t be God, that’s for sure. You wouldn’t want to hurt someone… Who does she think she is?”
The boy swam up to a high cliff which overlooked the entire kingdom. He slumped down onto a rock, feeling very hard-done-by. As he looked down he saw a tiny, brightly coloured fish feeding off of the algae which grew on the rock.
“You can’t be God either,” said the boy glumly. “You’re far too small.”
As the evening closed in and the lights of the kingdom began to sparkle in the dark water, the boy sighed. He had been looking for God all day, and all that he had found was a stupid dolphin, a rude mermaid and a small, insignificant fish. The young merman was just about to call it a day and swim home, when he spotted his old friend swimming slowly towards him.
“What are you doing all the way up here?” asked the wise merman. “You’re a long way from the town.”
“Well I was doing what you said and…” the boy replied venomously, but the old merman raised his hand to silence the boy.
“So you’ve been up here all day? Too angry and self absorbed to notice when God is right in front of you?”
The boy opened his mouth to speak, but quickly closed it again, suddenly feeling foolish.
“Look,” said the old merman forcefully. And he pointed towards the kingdom; towards the lights spilling from the buildings, and the glittering schools of fish weaving gracefully in and out of the tall towers and low coral houses; towards the beautiful mermaids and mermen rushing to and fro throughout the kingdom and the enormous shadows of whales on the outskirts of the underwater city. From high up on the cliff every individual movement seemed like a cog in the one big movement of the whole kingdom. Each life and action seemed to fit perfectly with everything else.
The boy sat watching the kingdom, which seemed like one united pulse of colour, movement and breath. He had never seen it this way before.
“Do you see God now?” asked the old merman gently.
“Yes,” said the boy, in awe. “I… I never noticed it before. It’s all perfect, isn’t it? Why didn’t I see it before?”
“When you stop thinking about yourself and how you wish the world would be, you start to see how the world really is. And it’s better than anything that you wished for, isn’t it? Because it doesn’t revolve around you and your ideas; you’re just part of the beautiful flow of it all. Doesn’t that feel good to know?”
Just then the boy saw the tiny, coloured fish which he had seen earlier that day. It was casually swimming over the rocks, experiencing every moment as it arrived and not expecting anything at all. The boy suddenly realised how much like the tiny fish he’d like to be.
He laughed. “Yes, it feels wonderful!”
With a very special thank you to the author, Jenni Piech, for sharing this delightful story with us. Jenni lives in south-east England with her fiance, Tim, and their cat, Cheesecake.