Explain Yourself

May 15, 2022

Psalm 148
Acts 11:1-18

The mālolo is known in English as the flying fish. They don’t really fly, although I must admit that they fly better than, say, I do. They can get themselves moving through the water at near forty miles an hour, which is faster than you should be driving through the streets of Hilo. Then they spread their forward fins and glide above the water. They can stay in the air for about a quarter of a mile, which is about the distance across Liliuokalani Gardens.

I know I can’t stay in the air that far.

The mālolo didn’t always fly that far, or fly at all, however. They swam like fish do, and they swam in big groups, or schools, and they could swim really fast. That allowed them to get from one source of food to the next, and it also allowed them to swim away from fish that wanted to make them into food.

But there was a day when swimming fast just didn’t seem like it would be enough. Some great big ‘ahi had found a school of mālolo, and they were very hungry great big ‘ahi. Soon the school was scattered as the big fish charged through it.

One mālolo found himself pursued by an ‘ahi who was not only big and hungry but also very fast. The mālolo churned his tail and paddled his fore fins and he could feel the ‘ahi’s teeth getting closer and closer. A panicked curve of his fins brought him closer to the surface. The next thing he knew, he’d actually come right out of the water into the air and splashed down again. It confused the ‘ahi for a moment, so the mālolo put on as much speed as he could and spread his forward fins to curve him toward the surface.

This time when he emerged above the water he started to glide along with air streaming beneath those great fins. He held them stiff and kept on above the ocean surface, hoping the ‘ahi wasn’t following right beneath him. He stayed there as long as he could before he slowed and slid into the water once more.

The ‘ahi had turned aside. Perhaps it hadn’t seen him above the surface. Perhaps it had just thought he made a sharp turn in its confusion. It didn’t matter. It went elsewhere.

The mālolo went looking for his friends and family. The school was re-gathering. Some of them weren’t happy.

“What did you do?” they demanded. “Did you go above the water?”

“Well, yes,” he said. “I didn’t mean to.”

“We don’t go above the water,” some of them said. “We’ll die.”

“With the ‘ahi right behind me, I’d have died if I stayed in the water,” said the mālolo.

“How do you explain yourself?” the asked in the cold tones of judgement.

“I really can’t explain it,” said the mālolo, “except to say that it worked.”

I can’t say that the other mālolo took up gliding right away. They didn’t. Some of that generation never did. Others tried it but didn’t do it very well, and they ended up back in the water right in front of hungry predators. But each season more and more mālolo took up that glide through the air, for no other reason than… it worked.

Watch the Recorded Story

Photo of a mālolo by Mike Prince from Bangalore, India – Flying Fish, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63637092.

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