"In a homogenized Catholic town like ours it was unavoidable to overhear that the oldest symbol of Christ was the Fish, 'from the times of the catacombs. . . '

"I must also have caught something about the Church being the 'Mystical Body of Christ.' That fired my imagination, which fused both images into a single one, that of an immense Fish. Each one of its innumerable luminous scales carried a human face on its belly, little ones around eyes and nose.

"On late evening walks I imagined the Fish taking off from the huddle of old houses around the ancient Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, saw it sailing through the black night sky across the river Meuse over the hills, to disappear in the direction of Orion which — was it coincidentally? — had the shape of a cross.

"I mused a lot about my Cosmic Fish with its countless human face-scales, and came to the conclusion that it could not possibly be confined to whatever church, however Catholic. It either encompassed all human beings — Dutch, Belgian, German, brown, yellow and black, old Emily and Henriette included — or it was a fishy Fish . . .

"Moreover, invisible as it might be to the naked eye, and apart from humankind, my Fish offered shelter to all animals on earth, in the sky and in the sea, perhaps even to trees and dandelions: to all of Creation. The Fish, undoubtedly, was at the origin, and simultaneously at the summit of what became my home-made Christology from the wrong side of the tracks, a Christology so far removed from all systematic theology that it must be purely systemic, generic, perhaps even genetically encoded.

"The childhood vision of the great Fish never paled, so that when half a century later I read Fa T'Sang, I recognized it disguised in these ancient Chinese Buddhist parables about the total interdependence — to the very point of their 'unimpeded mutual penetration' — of all phenomena in the universe.

"I have drawn, painted, carved my Cosmic Fish, hewn him out of a ten-foot tree trunk, forged him in steel, until finally I saw this mystical body mirrored in the Dharmadhatu of Buddhism."