Category: Don’s Blog

Tips for Fishing and Living # 83

Tip #83:

“The climax in the poem of trouting, is the spring of the split bamboo.”

Lewis France-1884

After the initial bite of the trout on the bait, and then those first few rushes from the pull and struggle of the fish, the fly fisherman, with the rod’s safety on, gently presses one thumb upon the line and feels the spring of the bamboo rod, as this action quickly kills the fish. The above fishing quote calls the process the “poem of trouting,” and describes the use of a split bamboo rod as essential for this fishing accomplishment.

We might find this poetic notion quite unromantic, more a brutal action, but, nevertheless, in the fisher’s world this is sheer poetry. Generally speaking, and in spite of such a harsh example as an illustration of poetry, our own lives would be far better off were we to think more poetically than with prose. With poetry we tend to see so much more – we broaden our horizons – and then we are more capable of deeper learning and more profound understanding. We are less defensive when we are able to grasp the esoteric, allegoric, or metaphorical stream of thought than we do from the solely straight logical realm.

This is why storytelling, fables, poems, and even satire can open us up when straight forward or logical approaches prove ineffective. Often the straight forward doesn’t work because we are too resistant. A friend once told me that he and six work buddies decided to go to a hypnotherapist for a group quite-smoking session. When they got to the therapist’s office one of the men changed his mind and so the therapist told him to sit in the waiting room. The therapist then left his office door ajar and went about treating the other men. When the session ended the guy who had stayed in waiting room was cured from his smoking, as well. His resistance vanished as he overheard the entire hypnotic process better than if he had entered the therapist’s office.     

We are inclined to rely mostly on prose and with front door approaches. I’ll go even further and say we easily get preoccupied with the bottom-line. In other words we are primarily linear thinkers. And as such we are blinded by our cause-and-effect approach – and easily lost in a predominately non-linear sea.

Life gets translated into accounting – the bottom line – the cost vs. payoff – and given to pros and cons. We use streak logic to decide who is in or who is out. We opt for things being lumped into either black or white, yes or no, simple answers. We assess people by the amount of money they make, their job or career position, the degree of education they have or lack thereof. We confuse celebrity for heroism.

 

                                                                       

 

 

 

We’ll base our opinion upon what a person wears, his/her hair style, their snappy sound bites, as opposed to what the a person stands for or what his/her character.

Not everything can be viewed from poetry or metaphor; occasionally we do need the bottom line, but poetry et al still offers a much richer, more expansive avenue for resolving life’s bigger questions. It offers alternatives from our habitual treadmill and vicious cycle of stuck ways. What I am getting at is that we cannot live our life solely from our heads. We must also use our hearts; that is if we are to find a more satisfying and more worthwhile lives, rather than merely a survival existence.

How does one measure the degree of love for another without the inclusion of one’s heart? Heart must enter into the equation. How else can we know the measure of one’s life exclusively from the vantage point of what one contributes toward the greater good without love? Ultimately, do we make the world a little bit better than it was before we arrived here on planet earth? This can’t be addressed without including our hearts. Such things, therefore, call for greater poetry. Prose alone falls way too short. When it comes to important matters the exclusively analytical fail us. We do not have words to even describe certain things. Words like: love, purpose, family, loyalty, community, bravery, forgiveness, justice, to name just a few.

You do realize I am not speaking of rhyme or strict poetry? It’s about the distinction of using our heads or our using our hearts in ways that matter.  What ultimately matters? This is a question each of us must answer for ourselves. Yes, there are those times we must use both in order to transform our world into becoming more life-giving. To do so we need to see our creative and artistic capacities.

We are way too limiting with our understanding about artistry and creativity. Some believe they are not artistic or creative. I believe we are all artists. Artists create; they expand; they expose; they enrich. We can help others and ourselves discover that creativity already resides within us.

The idea that the Creator encourages creativity is a radical thought to some. We, instead, tend to think or fear that creative dreams are egotistical, and not in alignment with what our Creator would approved of for us.

We’d do well to rethink this and see creativity as a natural aspect of our life, and that creativity is energy, or if you like, grace. To expand on this try seeing creativity as God’s gift to us; and that using our creativity is our gift back to God. Such a basic stand or philosophy means that as we move toward our dreams and creative expressions we also move toward our divinity.

Nonlinear thinking, transformation, Aha moments, having epiphanies, and loving no matter what: all are part of a spiritual approach to one’s life. I don’t care if you are a plumber, a lawyer, a house builder, a home maker, a painter, a writer, or a poet, you are an artist!

“It is within my power to serve God or not serve God. Serving God, I add to my own good and the good of the whole world. Not Serving God, I forfeit my own good and deprive the world of that good, which was in my power to create.”                Leo Tolstoy

On this Thanksgiving weekend and while very much still in the midst of a global pandemic, we are perhaps awakened to take nothing for granted. Let us continue our reflections regarding those blessings we do have, that we are alive, and perhaps merely surviving, but alive nevertheless.

A prayer relating to this weekend might help. This one is taken from this week’s The Atlantic Magazine, called: a Coronavirus Prayer, and was written by JAMES PARKER:

“Dear Lord,

In this our hour of doorknobs and droplets,

when masks have canceled our personalities;

in this our hour of prickling perimeters, sinister surfaces,

defeated bodies, and victorious abstractions,

when some of us are stepping into rooms humid with contagion,

and some of us are standing in the pasta aisle;

in this our hour of vacant parks and boarded-up hoops,

when we miss the sky-high roar of the city

and hear instead the tarp that flaps on the unfinished roof,

the squirrel giving his hinge-like cry, and the siren constantly passing,

to You we send up our prayer, as follows:

Let not heebie-jeebies become our religion,

our new ideology, with its own jargon.

Fortify us, Lord. Show us how.

What would your saints be doing now?

Saint Francis, he was a fan of the human.

He’d be rolling naked on Boston Common.

He’d be sharing a bottle. No mask, no gloves,

shielded only by burning love.

But I don’t think we’re in the mood

for feats of antic beatitude.

In New York City, and in Madrid,

the saints maintain the rumbling grid.

Bless the mailman, and equally bless

the bus driver, vector of steadfastness.

Protect the bravest, the best we’ve got.

Protect the rest of us, why not.

And if the virus that took John Prine

comes, as it may, for me and mine,

although we’ve mostly stayed indoors,

well—then, as ever, we’re all Yours.

Until further notice,

AMEN”

Tips for Fishing and Living # 82

Tip #82:

“In the lexicon of the fly-fishermen, the words ‘rise and hooked’ connote the successful and desirable climax; landing a fish is purely anticlimax.”

Vincent C. Marinaro-1950

We borrow all sorts of jargon and expressions from specialized areas, such as sports, and incorporate them into our everyday language. This includes fishing terms like the one mentioned above. Here’s another popular one – to “fish or cut bait.” This typically refers to the need to either take some action(s) involving something we keep dwelling on, or else we need to let it go. Then there’s “Being hooked,” which usually means we’re either interested in or infatuated with someone or something; or we’re constantly desiring more attention/more time from someone or something.

‘Rise and hooked’ – from the above quote has to do with notion that we find actual joy from an experience in and of itself. This may can include various steps along the way toward eventually achieving an intended goal. A similar way to say this is, “The road to heaven is heaven.”

And sometimes we say, “Getting there is half the fun?” It does seem true that once we achieve our desired goal there is usually some initial celebrating – maybe some high fiving – but what often follows is a bit of a letdown. We start out with some version of “We made it! Hurrah!” And shortly afterwards there comes “So now what?” Or a “What’s next?” questioning.

While we can readily admit to the ideal of getting there is half the fun, we also make being successful and winning paramount. These two notions seem to be contradictory and in opposition. We live is a society that puts winning as being all important. If this were not so we’d recognize how athletes that get to the World Olympics to represent his/her country IS already a winner. To represent one’s country means you are a primer athlete and thus pretty amazing. It has always astounded me how we treat these athletes who do not go home with a Gold, or a Silver, or maybe a Bronze medal, as some sort of loser. This is crazy.

This is a metaphor for life. If it‘s true that getting there (Be it the Olympics or anywhere we are striving to get) is really what life is about, then we should celebrate this reality. Our achievements are often what propel us onward and further. So it seems we are rather doomed to have but brief moments of happiness if we only celebrate the end game and not the journey itself. Our mountain top vista moments will always be fleeting.

They are tiny flashes in our over-arching scheme of day-to-day pursuits. Once we win our metaphorical Gold Medal we are soon out striving toward newer goals – if not grander and loftier, motivated toward bigger and a more audacious goals.

But we do owe it to ourselves to take in the panorama vista – or if you prefer, our moment on the Olympic awards Grandstand. So, yes, savor the moment. Go ahead, take your selfie. Post it on Facebook if you like. Why not? Then and only then move onto your next aspect of your adventure.

Perhaps this is the way we are designed, so as to continue to have us evolve and grow. Perhaps our lack of feeling ever or fully satisfied and a need to keep pursuing more is our creator’s master plan.

To summarize:

Step One: Enjoy the process of the journey. Be present to the experience of being alive and fully engaged.

Step Two: Savor the victory. Drink it in. Express gratitude to any and all who helped you succeed.

Step Three: Take all you have learned, profited from through your persistence in reaching your desire goal. Then ponder what might be next on your horizon.

This does appear to be part of our evolution, and it is therefore purposeful.

Remember: Actions you take to achieve what you have done are in themselves potentially part of the satisfaction and fun you can enjoy while achieving. By enjoying the process you can eliminate much or all of the anxiety that otherwise might bog you down.

I have one simple rule I try to follow:

Put all of my energy and focus on achieving my stated goal like it is the most important thing,

WHILE not becoming attached to the result.

I call this being two-headed. It may seem contradictory but I think it proves wise helpful.

Here’s another idea I use to guide me along my journey: See everything in life as either a test or a celebration.

As already stated it is appropriate to celebrate our achievements or milestones. We just need to realize that we cannot remain there forever or rest on our laurels. Enjoy the moment; ritualize the great accomplishment; but then move on. Also it’s important to know we can’t take our latest level of competence or mastery for granted. What do I mean?

Perhaps an example.

Napoleon suffered a huge battle and his final defeat at Waterloo. This was due to a seemingly inappropriate and premature victory. He and his army achieved a battle victory on June 18, 1815. Napoleon had brilliantly outmaneuvered Wellington’s 77,000 men, and in addition held back the more than 100,000 Prussians nearby, by getting his own soldiers in between those two enemy forces, thus keeping them from an ability to join together, which would have overpowered Napoleon and surely beaten him.

So when Napoleon’s army beat back Wellington’s men he initially pushed them into retreating and his army took over 160 British canons Wellington’s men had to leave behind. What happened next was decisive. Napoleon’s men were supposed to pound nails into the cannon’s touchhole – a small hole in early firearms through which the charge is ignited – in order to render them useless. But his men forgot to fill their pockets with nails before going into battle.

This proved fatal to Napoleon army as Wellington’s men eventually regathered, were strengthened by the Prussians, and they re-assaulted Napoleon’s men. Wellington’s army retook the still operable cannons and turned them toward Napoleon’s men to defeat them.

This defeat was all because of a presumed victory and a lack of a fistful of nails. Napoleon, a brilliant master of the particular form of warfare of his time, was beaten at Waterloo and it became his ultimate defeat.

One would argue success requires two things: (1) to see the big picture, and (2) while doing so also have the ability to pay attention to the details. With any victory or achievement we gain some new wisdom. We’ve covered before that we also gain wisdom from our defeats or our so-called losses; perhaps even more so.

How we approach various aspects of our life says a lot about who we are. Some of us are less concerned with apparent threats or with possible danger, and are more tolerant of ambiguity. These are people who tend to be more culturally and socially liberal, especially with matters such as, immigration, crime, and sexuality. These are people who also can more easily tolerate nuance, and who like to think in esoteric ways. They appreciate abstract art, even stories without clear endings, and enjoy ironic political satire.

There are also those who tend to be on alert and are more actively monitoring for possible threats. These people prefer certainty, closure, and they tend to be politically, culturally and socially more conservative. Since they are on an alertness they have a greater capacity to make decisions quickly and effectively by being guided by their intuition and emotion. These are people that like political opinions that are clear and efficient, and tend to think more linearly.

This second type of people more readily embrace order and predictability, are morally serious and have a deep and strong sense of duty and purpose. They hold a high value for tradition, loyalty and family. It’s not that the first type of people mentioned are opposed to such things, but they have a greater comfort with not knowing what may happen next, and have greater tolerance for ambiguity. They enjoy adventure and may be seen as more risk taking.

Conclusion: We need both kinds of people. We need both and we them to join together.

Most of us are not totally one way of the other, but have leanings of one direction over the other. The first group gives us exploration and art, and a way to remain open to uncertainty found in much of life. We’d not have astronauts or scientific discovery without such people. Whereas the second group offers us vigilance and safety from possible threat or harm. Their contribution is a capacity to cut down danger by thoughtful and realistic “risk assessment.” These are people who often do the important detail work for bringing dreams into reality.

Presently we are experiencing in our society a huge and dangerous polarization of these two groups of people. This division and demonization of the two types into factions is done with great intention. It is done for personal, financial and political benefit. It literally profits those who cause this fighting with each other and antagonizing one another. Those who intentionally incite the two differing peoples into becoming mortal enemies and to become alienated are making money, gaining power and building or keeping control. When we allow for the best of both thinking to flourish we all gain a much better overall result. Right now this cannot happen or is being undermined and deeply thwarted.

We therefore must take this responsibility on ourselves. We must advance our coming back together and bring about a greater appreciation for our distinct and differing voices.

No one has all of the wisdom; each of us has a piece of the wisdom. We need one another to contribute our various parts of the total to do great things.

I’ll leave this thought to ponder with this humorous point: Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 81

Tip #81:

“It is not easy to tell one how to cast. The art must be acquired by practice.”

Charles Orvis-1883

I don’t care if we are talking about baking a cake, playing piano, playing golf, or making love. There is only so much one can learn from reading or studying about a given activity. Sooner or later one needs to roll up one’s sleeves (or take off the entire shirt) and get into the action. One also needs to be willing to make some mistakes, to do things poorly at first, and even run the risk of failing. I’ve addressed this notion of so-called failure other times before. Again, mistakes are not really mistakes if they get us to learn some important things, or help us improve our capacities, and ultimately help us to gain insights that prove helpful for future endeavors.

It’s best to simply see mistakes as learning experiences – that is, of course, if we have an expectation that there is something to learn. If we fall down and scrap our metaphorical knee and then stand back up and say to our self, ‘Oh well, I guess I won’t do that again or won’t do it that way in the future,’ that’s a good thing. By the way: We can learn from other people as well. We do not have to rely exclusively on our own experiences.

Other than with baseball we have the idea that we should somehow do things well or perform perfectly the very first time out in whatever endeavor we are doing, or else we have failed. This is simply not true. Baseball players, on the other hand, consider hitting the ball 3 out of 10 times when up at bat a pretty good hitting record. A 300 batting average would get you into the major leagues.  Whereas in real life we think you need to hit the ball 10 times out 10. Pretty dumb; not to mention very faulty thinking.  

Kaizen is a Japanese concept referring to business activities that promote, not perfection, but rather continuous improvement within all the various business functions including all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. Kaizen is the Sino-Japanese word for “improvement”. It has to do with processes, such as purchasing, logistics, and crosses organizational boundaries and on into even supply chains. It is now being applied in healthcare, psychotherapy, life coaching, government, banking and more. I try to get couples to apply this for their relationship.

By on-going improvements of programs and processes, Kaizen aims to eliminate waste. Interestingly, Kaizen was first practiced in Japanese businesses after World War II, in large part due to an American business man that brought it to Japan. Most notably it has been a fundamental part of The Toyota Way that brought Toyota into a highly competitive automotive market share. It has since spread throughout the world.

Regarding our current political situation, if the Democrats that have elected Joe Biden to be the next president with 75 million votes, but take this as justification to ignore the 70 million voters that did voted for Trump, we are just going to keep perpetuating the vicious cycle that ultimately changes nothing. Biden has asked that we all – his supporters and non-supporters – give each other a chance. He has vowed to serve as president of all Americans. But this also requires each of us to stop vilifying anyone who does not agree with us.

I see Joe Biden as someone who treats politics as being first and foremost about relationships. Long deceased Senator Tip O-Neill, once said, “All politics are local.” He even wrote a book with this as its title. In order to win elections progressives must fight for local governmental seats, and this means they must be responsive to those felt needs and concerns at the local, as well as, state and national levels.  This notion about listening to each other and about responding from a perspective that we are always in relationships makes it fundamentally about love.

Perhaps it seems strange that I bring up the subject of love. Hear me out. Love really is the answer. But what is love exactly? What do we really mean when we talk about love? Most of us have it very wrong. Many think of love as what movies, so-called love songs, and romance novels tell us.

We might think of love as having to do with having someone who makes us feel good and happy. This is a self-serving and juvenile idea of love. Real love – mature, adult love – is about wanting someone else to be happy and fulfilled – even if it means they do so without you. It is about wanting the very best for the other person.

It has to do with what many couples fervently have read during their wedding celebration from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Words that we are deeply touched by and then we seem to immediately forget right after the wedding ceremony or maybe following the honeymoon.

“Love is patient, is kind, does not envy, does not boost, is not proud, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, never fails.”

When we worked with engaged couples we often challenged them to read this scripture passage but substitute into the reading their own first name whenever the word love was read. As an example: I would say, “Don is patient, Don is kind, he does not envy, he does not boost, is not proud, Don is not rude…”

This is certainly a tall order. I know I do not love all the time, or love completely, or operate from a place of love nearly often enough. But this is what we are called to do. We do it imperfectly. We need to take on a Kaizen approach toward loving – having the possibility of continuous improvement.

Perhaps we can liken this call to loving more perfectly as us responding in always more mature ways regarding our thinking and behaving. This is similar to learning how to fly cast more skillfully. Practice, practice, practice.

It takes also more than just getting better techniques. It requires a new or more enlightened way of being. This new way of being requires us to have the prerequisites: open mind and open heart. This also means we develop a greater capacity for having real presence.

We cannot come from a place of love whenever we are afraid. Anxiousness is an aspect of fear. The opposite of love is not hate; it is fear. Hate is one expression of fear. Whenever we are afraid or anxious we cannot then be present and loving. That’s because we are caught up in survival mode. Our ego tells us to “watch out!”

Happiness comes to us through a practice of being present and open. And access to such openness can come about through meditation. No one has been able to define what the nebulous feeling of happiness actually is. But usually we get this quite wrong, as well.

In his book “A Monk’s Guide to Happiness,” Gelong Thubten, describes how he was able to rid himself of stress and fatigue through Buddhism. Eventually he became a monk.

In his book he states that “The best way to achieve happiness is to stop trying to find it.” He adds that “when we search for happiness, the searching becomes the problem. We are always hungry for something when we are looking for happiness – we are always searching for something more. We don’t ever feel happy because we are continually looking ahead, hoping to find something better. We are never satisfied with what we have.”

Buddhists believe that happiness is our natural state and that our brains are wired to be happy. Neuro-science backs this up. To find happiness, we can free ourselves of the daily distractions that obscure it from us through meditation.

The practice of meditation brings inner relaxation. When we free our self from the need to find happiness, paradoxically we discover that it was already there. Rather than thinking that our mind goes blank through meditation, we are simply controlled less by our thoughts.

Meditation allows our thoughts to pass by. It’s a bit like watching traffic. If we let our thoughts pass by; we are freed from the power they have over us. This turns out to be the way to happiness.

Thubten quotes a poem by Zen Buddhism teacher Shunryu Suzuki in his book to illustrate these points:

“You’re like a house

Leave the front door and back door open

Allow your thoughts to come and go

Just don’t serve them tea.”

Perhaps our own present day mystic, Dave Chappelle, offered us a powerful and epic message when last weekend on SNL he spoke of how for some of us we remember that terrible feeling we felt when Donald Trump won the election in 2016. He chided us to now realize that there are a lot of folks who are feeling that terrible feeling with Joe Biden’s win. He then went on to say that each side hates the other side for this terrible feeling. Chappelle then said, “I do not. I only hate that feeling.”

I refer us all back again to 1 Corinthians 1:3.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 80

Tip #80:

“The great charm of fly-fishing is that we are always learning; no matter how long we have been at it, we are constantly making some fresh discovery, picking up some new wrinkle. If we become conceited through great success, someday the trout will take us down a peg.”

Theodore Gordon-1907

There is something quite annoying about know-it-alls. We call these people “full-of-_ _it.” I think we can agree with how irritating it is to be with such people. They come across as arrogant and conceited. They cannot be offered any new information because they already know everything!

When I find myself with a know-it-all I chide them as being people who are “undeterred by any facts or current information.” They go about life very often with inaccurate, incomplete, or out-of-date, thinking. They appear averse to admitting they’ve made a mistake, or that they may actually not know something. “I was wrong” rarely, if ever, comes out of their mouths.

A fact of life is that we would become quite bored if there was never anything new to know or learn. Learning is essential to a fulfilling life. Growth is one of our most basic human needs. There are six basic human needs. I’ll address these at another time. It is enough to say they are not wants; they are needs. The need to grow is a basic human need. If we are not growing as a person, then we are actually dying.

Great masters of any pursuit in life are often humble people. They do not take their mastery for granted, or think of themselves as being above anyone. They have a unique skill of talent. And they see themselves as lifelong learners. They are people who continue to increase their capacity and skills on-goingly.

Whereas someone that already always knows everything is impossible to educate. There isn’t any room for new or additional knowledge. Lifelong learners – people who seemly have a compulsion towards putting more and more effort in developing their natural talents – do so in order to authenticate competence. At the same time, they never presume they have arrived. They aren’t competing with others; rather, they are competing with themselves. I am working to become better than I was yesterday. Tomorrow I will strive to become better than who I am today.

As of this writing our presidential election results have for the most part been concluded. We are to have Joe Biden as our next president. It appears we will be replacing the one we’ve have had for the last four years. Our current president is presently actively engaged in desperate attempts to hold onto his presidency seemingly by whatever means he can conjure up in order to do so. He has a history of suing in order to get his way. He is pursuing this avenue regarding the election process.

Litigious people are highly anxious. Also they are incapable of taking responsibilities for their own actions. The look to blame anyone and everyone else, and they are good at being victims. Some do it by a “poor me” approach, while others do so with angry righteous indignation. Trump does it with anger.  

Our Society – and we the people that make up our society – have become increasingly undifferentiated, unimaginative, and unwilling to undertake risk. Instead we are hyper-reactive. These are all forms of chronic anxiety. Chronic anxiety is different from communal nervousness, existential angst, or ‘anxiety’ stemming from the poor economy or, say, the threat of a war. Chronic anxiety might be compared to the potential explosiveness of a room that is filled with gas fumes – and where any sparking incident could set off an inferno. What people tend to do is then blame the person who struck the match rather than try to disperse the toxicity of the fumes from the room.

A focus on technical solutions to problems in families often fails to make systemic and lasting differences. When we address the manifestation of anxiety surrounding money, for instance, with technical solutions about money, the problem will merely relocate possibly around sex, or children, or some other displaced issue. The failure of quick-fix attitudes is that by neglecting to modify the emotional processes that underlie everything else keeps the present problem(s) in place.

Also chronic anxiety is self-reinforcing: the greater the chronic anxiety in any community, the more oriented it will become to its symptoms, and the more likely it is to export its troubles into the wider society through violence, litigiousness, or other destructive means.

The only way out of chronic anxiety is through a stage of acutely painful withdrawal, which is why many perpetuate the symptoms rather than address the underlying emotional processes. Some only know how to use violence, litigiousness and other mean-spirited means. Again these all lend themselves toward quick-fix remedies, and of displacing responsibility away from the self, but they do not address the underlying problems. They only address the symptoms.

Psychologist Leon Festinger describes chronically anxious and poorly differentiated people as having a cognitive dissonance. “The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance” is a phenomenon of how a person deals with dissonance. An example is with people who continue to smoke, even though they know it is bad for their health.

Whenever we feel uncertain and inconsistent, we feel a dissonance, i.e., mental strain, stress and discomfort.  We want to avoid this as it causes us to feel less capable of dealing with life. If we chronically feel high levels of dissonance, we are at risk for anxiety and depression disorders.

Basically, this is what happens: when we have two different and conflicting thoughts, such as: ‘I am intelligent person, and yet I did this stupid thing’ in order to resolve this conflict we change one of these two thoughts. For instance I modify one to be, “I’m not really stupid; there were some unusual circumstances…”

Right now we are seeing two different leadership approaches to our current political arena: We have our incumbent president speaking out from a self-absorbed, poor-me, they are against me, I am being cheated, and only thinking about what is best for himself. Whereas our president-elect is talking about all of us remaining calm and confident, that our democracy works, and that the voters always get to decide. He is not talking about himself or the opponent he ran against; he is talking about our nation. He is talking about us. He is also calling to do the things we need to get to work on.

This kind of leadership is leading with a calming presence, and one that recognizes that we are first of all, a nation of relationships. It is a leadership founded on maturity and personal responsibility. We have a lot of work ahead of us to heal our nation.

I am eager for us to return to these ways of leading in order that we do press forward. It do requires all of us to roll up our sleeves and take on the possibilities of what our nation has always aspired to – “to be a more perfect union.”  Let us, then, join together and be who we are called to be.  

Tips for Fishing and Living # 79

Tip #79:

 “Often, I have been exhausted on trout streams, uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, mosquito-bitten, but never, with a fly rod in my hand, have I been in a place that was less than beautiful.”

Charles Kuralt-1990

A friend once told me about the time when he was recovering from knee surgery and how he convinced his wife that he could not put the trash out on the curb due to his soreness and his worry of re-injuring his knee. But then when he was offered a ticket to an NFL football game his favorite team was playing, he jumped at the offer. Suddenly his knee pain was miraculously diminished. If we love what we are doing we don’t mind so much the otherwise small annoyances that may arise.

Blogger Peter Klein writes, “We should never let a good crisis go to waste.” I think I’ve heard Dave Chappelle say something similar. Both point out the paradoxical aspect of crisis and opportunity. We psychologically orientated folks are quick to call this Reframing.

When a couple comes to see me about a crisis they’re in the throes of they will state what has occurred as, “the worst thing that could have happened.” I listen to their accounts of their situation, and eventually I ask them to consider it, perhaps, as also “the best thing that might have happened.” Granted, nobody wants terrible things to occur, but since it has happened is there a silver lining with it? It might be buried or hidden. Can they look for it? This sometimes is a useful way to proceed.

I am certainly not happy with the terrible tragedies so many are experiencing from the Covid-19 pandemic, especially the poor way it has been handled or mishandled. I also do not like the recession that is hurting many people, or the social unrest and systemic racism that have been glaringly present.

BUT… I do ask myself, ‘did it take all of this to finally get our attention focused on the present unsustainable and dysfunctional way we have been living?’ Also, ‘has the present situation caused more people to be drawn into actively engaging in our democracy?’ And finally, ‘Are we starting to realize we don’t want to return to the so-called Normal that was dysfunctional and where our Nation has not been the very best we are called to be and capable of becoming?’

Even though no one wanted these terrible problems, we can still ask, “What possible good can come from it?” “What new and better possibilities can we create for our nation?” If we do this, then we can go about taking appropriate action(s) – actions that will go a long way toward making our nation a more perfect union, and us into a better people. It is clearly a tough prescription to swallow. I get it. But the basic question may be: “how can we exploit our current situation in the best possible sense?”

Have we had enough of the “uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, and mosquito-bitten” way we’ve been living? Are we weary from the systemic blindness we’ve been existing in – a blindness that allows far too many of our brothers and sisters to be forced to live – metaphorically and literally speaking – poorly, unjustly treated, and systematically excluded from equal opportunities?

Change is coming.

So here’s the thing: Change is coming whether we like it or not. What we can do as people of integrity is embrace this change. Welcome it. Contribute our part toward realizing a better future by bringing our own vision into the conversation.

Change is welcomed by some and seen as terrifying by others. If it scares us we resist it. If we see change as the only real constant in life and we welcome it we can participate and join other people of good will. Then we’ll discover the beauty and joy that comes from a missionful/purposeful life.

There is nothing new about the fact that the people in power don’t like this pending change, nor are they willingly going to give up their power by including others. We’ve been experiencing their resistance to share power.  Perhaps we are seeing this done today in unprecedented – unimaginable – extremes, all taken in order to hold onto their power. Masterful steps are being used: massive doses of repeated lies, intentional propaganda, grandiose cover-ups, systemic corruption, and deceitfulness, as well as, a strategic setting various groups against each other – all designed to hold onto the power of the few.

There is an increasingly growing gap between the haves and the have nots. The middle class has been shrinking for quite a while with more and more people becoming the official poor. The top 1% of our country has increased in their wealth exponentially. With every new billionaire there has been some failed policy – some policy that caters or is designed to benefit the very wealthy while undermining and penalizing the rest. 

Hopefully we have reached a tipping point from which good is forthcoming. Much of our desired change won’t happen overnight. But eventually we’ll see we have been steering our nation toward our higher ideals, rather than sliding backwards. I pray we are courageous enough to make the long-term, real systemic changes necessary. We can no longer be satisfied with merely rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic. Systemic change requires hard work and real commitment, not the quick-fix mentality.

We cannot change a person’s heart or attitude, but we can enforce laws and regulations where systemic racism is embedded. We will succeed if we are willing to join together to root out whatever is necessary to Really Make American Great – not in some superficial, fake patriotic way, but Great as in what our Nation’s creed PROCLAIMS: the pursuit of life, liberty and freedom for all.

Whenever we roll up our COLLECTIVE sleeves and get going we have always done great things. We won’t do it all at once, but we can get going and keep going.

Our neglected and abused planet must become a top priority. And we can also use it as a metaphor for how we have also mistreated and abused many of our brothers and sisters. We act like we are not related; not connected; not in this all together.

Here are some actions steps to take:

Step 1: Keep in the foreground that we are all in this together.

Step 2: Realize that if one of us suffers, we all suffer.

Step 3: Engage and communicate with one another knowing we are connected and are in this together. We can differ on how to go about doing all the various things we must do, but we can’t forget Step 1 and Step 2.

Trout fishing is pleasurable in spite of the mosquitoes, the cold, the burn-burn, etc. because we can readily experience the beauty and sacredness surrounding us in that stream, or on that river bank. Being awake is a practice. It gets us to be reflective and to live contemplatively, which then moves us from being fear-based and ego driven.

The need for Contemplation

 Richard Rohr tells us that contemplation is an old-fashioned word that means the deliberate seeking of God by an inner dialogue. Our soul grows closer to God through our willingness to detach from the passing self, the tyranny of feelings, the addiction to self-image, and the false promises of culture.

It is a journey into the nothingness of true faith, where the ordinary rules of thinking, managing, explaining, and fixing up the smaller Self do not apply. Contemplation isn’t a way to spiritually bypass what is real, harmful, or unjust. Instead, with steady practice it eventually gives us an ability to stay present to what is, and meet it with wisdom, compassion, and courage. All major world religions at their more mature stages recognize the necessity of contemplative practice.

Rohr further explains that most of us haven’t ever met the person who we ourselves really are. We have filled our life with a steady stream of ideas, images, and feelings that we cling to—thinking these are our very essence. I don’t have feelings; the feelings have me. So who are we – at the deepest level—behind our thoughts and feelings or the thoughts and feelings others have about us? We are compulsive with identifying ourselves either with our thoughts, our self-image, or our feelings.

Only by getting beyond these things can we discover our “original essence,” – who we already are before we were even born. With great practice we can begin to get glimpses of our True Self, usually only for brief moments at a time. But this is grace in action.

Mystics are those who seem to reside regularly in a contemplative state. They can encourage us. When we are slowed down we discover how we yearn for and long for the courage to do the same.

How we will come through this historic time will develop positively if we discover the redeeming power of contemplative living. We can draw upon people who live such a life style – people who came before that paved the way for us.

The mystics and saints of all genders, cultures, and faith traditions, those both known and unknown, have always helped us evolve. It may also be that this is the moment where we must step up and be contemplatives ourselves. Let’s call this:

Step 4. Embrace contemplative living, and therefore be able to take actions that stem from a contemplative living practice.

Final Thought: Given the need to come from a solid footing, perhaps Step 4 should really be Step 1.