Bergen, a beautiful coastal city, is ringed by seven magnificent mountains and is the gateway to Norway’s famous fjords, including a narrow inlet with steep cliffs on both sides into which whales often wander. For hundreds of years, this inlet was a major source of livelihood for the people living along this unique coastline. Men took turns standing watch on the cliffs, waiting to spot a whale entering the bay, then quickly sounding the alarm, notifying the entire village.
When a whale was spotted, the village fishermen would rush to their boats and stretch a net across the mouth of the bay. This was important to the entire community because whales were an essential source of their sustenance, providing the town with many necessities from their skin, blubber, meat, bones, and organs.
When the whale saw the net, it thought it was trapped. In reality this Mighty Monster of the Sea was not trapped. It could have broken through the net, however it felt trapped. Why? Because its perception was that it was trapped. Its mind didn't process the fact that it was the Mighty Monster of the Sea and could not be held by a puny net. This perception would cost it its life.
Once the trap was set, the men would paddle their skiffs close to the whale and shoot it with darts about 18 inches long. I have often pictured the immense whale watching these men approach it and shoot it with something that must have felt like a pin prick and then thinking, “Come on you guys. I’m the Mighty Monster of the Sea. Is this the best you can do? I mean if we are going to fight let’s fight. Show me some respect. Give me a challenge.”
After shooting their darts, the men quickly returned to shore, keeping the whale under close observation for the next several days. They watched as gradually it began to surface more and more frequently, trying to get air. They could see it getting weaker and weaker, until at last, it was so weak they could safely approach it, harpoon it, and drag it to shore.
What caused the demise of the Mighty Monster of the Sea? The villagers used a combination of three powerful strategies to bring it down.
The first was the net, which fooled it into thinking it was trapped and bound it to the bay.
The second was the little darts. Such small darts can’t kill a whale, can they? Normally they can’t, but the villagers had a secret which had been passed down generation after generation. Before approaching the monster, they gathered darts that were stored in buckets of blubber from previously trapped whales. The blubber was contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, which the tiny darts carried into the whale, causing internal destruction and progressive weakness.
The third was the harpoons, which the whale was unable to avoid or fight off in its weakened condition.
Puny nets trap not only Mighty Monsters of the Sea, they trap us and our children, convincing us we cannot escape and setting us up as easy prey to the darts and harpoons of life. Many of us are trapped by nets of self-doubt, despair, isolation, debt, addictions, stereotypes, social injustice, and so many others. Which ones are trapping you and your family, leaving you vulnerable?
As powerful as these nets seem, we believe all of us have truly mighty powers within us and can break free. We have seen courageous men, women, and even children fight back against the nets that seem to trap them and win, often one small, but real step at a time. Even more inspiring, if that’s possible, is watching these winners turn around and help others face their nets as well. Are we willing to join them, to face the nets that hold us back and set ourselves free?
You might be asking yourself, “But wouldn’t that be difficult?” Probably.
You might also be asking, “Would I stumble and fall along the way?” Very likely.
And finally, we hope you are asking, “Would it be worth it?” Because we believe, ABSOLUTELY!
Here’s to Failing Forward Together,
Calvert and Anne
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