Category: Don’s Blog

Tips for Fishing and Living # 50

Tip #50:

“Even eminent chartered accountants are known, in their capacity as fishermen, blissfully to ignore differences between seven and ten inches, half a pound and two pounds, three fish and a dozen fish.”

William Sherwood Fox, Silken Lines and Silver Hooks, 1954~

We all love a good fish story. More importantly, we also love to adjust details and facts to suit our own purposes.  And I am all for it. We all do it at various times. In fact, right now especially, I am very much in favor of us taking on telling great and wonderful fish stories. Not about fish, but about people. These difficult time call for drastic measures, so why not get us all telling about the great and wonderful stories of so many people that are stepping up and doing gallant things.

What I’m getting at is this: we sometimes toss about our own version of whether the cup is half full or half empty. Right now it would be easy enough to make a case for the half empty cup! Sure, there’s plenty to moan about, to criticize, and more than enough to be angry about. And of course most of this boils down to the fact that we see plenty to be frightened by.

But let me just say that I’ve run the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna before, so here goes one more time. Can’t we take bragging about all these amazing people out there doing herculean things? It’s not that they are unafraid, they’re simply doing heroic things regardless. It’s a case of a “feel the fear and do it anyway” approach. And don’t these amazing people inspire us to do our own extra kindnesses and helpfulness within our own neighborhood? Our towns? Our own families?

So let’s start gossiping. Why not tell the huge “fish stories” that you see going on where you live? Let’s tell on one another, only let’s make the telling of all those extraordinary things ordinary people are doing these days a priority. Let’s take it on because we see the telling as purposeful.  These people are all over the place: shopping for their elderly parents, shut-ins and neighbors; the kids that leave supportive messages with chalk on our sidewalks; the folks that while keeping distance still manage a smile and say “hello” or ask us “how are you go doing?”

This is what so many folks have been doing all along, long before this pandemic started. Then there are some of us who kind of slipped up in these simple and civic-minded things. Maybe we got lazy. Maybe we stopped when someone gave us a hard time and we quit being so friendly, or as friendly as we used to be. But I see this kind of stuff making a comeback.

Telling about Americans’ goodness and greatness is sorely needed. By bragging and even pointing out this kindness and generosity reminds and encourages us to all do better ourselves. But before I elaborate on this let me go over the way we generally tell stories.

People get hurt and feel upset all the time, but they base their being upset on the perception about whatever happened. It is never about what actually happened; it’s always our perception about the experience of what just happened.

So it’s our meaning or interpretation of the experience that then troubles us. Granted, our perceptions are all we have to go by, but we can get pretty worked up over our perceptions – what I like to call our opinion of moonlight – and then we go and even find all kinds of evidence to back up our story or interpretation about what happened.  This is also called confirmation bias.

This is not new information if you’ve read some of my previous blogs. But what I want to advocate for is that we can exploit this terrible and certainly challenging time in the best possible way by choosing to take on discovering whatever good we can extrapolate out of it. This collective forced slowing down is an unforeseen chance to become more reflective people. We don’t have to enjoy this shut down but we can choose to not become isolated and focused on fear. We can instead use this time to grow and to re-set so much of what we have accepted as the norm or the given of our lives. 

So here’s another way of saying this: when life gives us lemons we can make lemonade. While I am in no way making light of the realities of this pandemic, I believe this down time may begin to show us what good might come from it. There are and will be many hardships. The somber reality that many people will die. No question.  And I am asking that you not allow this virus to defeat us, but rather be a catalyst to decide the kind of world we want to come out of this pandemic and subsequent recession.

There’s only so much cleaning and organizing we can do. Even if we get to all that clutter in our closets, basements and attics handled we’ll still have ample time to clean up our world starting with one relationship at a time.

I recommend you start with your relationship with yourself. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” is one of those sentences that reads equally true when it’s reversed: “Love yourself as you love your neighbor.” What if you started treating yourself as well as you try to treat the neighbor? Don’t you often give him/her the benefit of the doubt? Don’t you sometime think, ‘Well, I might be a bit rough with people too if I had to contend with what they have to deal with.’

What would it look like if you were kinder to you? If you cut you some slack now and then, as well? What if you were to love yourself the way God loves you? My own take on this is that God simply loves. God is love. God cannot do anything except love. I get it, it’s a tall order to take on loving ourselves completely and unconditionally, let alone then doing so with everyone else, as well.

Occasionally I’ll ask people I consider over-functioners, or overly responsible what they might do for themselves if they weren’t being so busy taking care of everything and everyone else? Most reply, “I really don’t know,” or “I’ve not really thought about it.” They don’t allowed themselves to think such things. They are actually under-functioners when it comes to taking care of themselves. People who are following their hopes and dreams and their passions and are offering these to the world – their gifts and talents – are a huge contribution and are usually joyful and happy people, as well.

It may not seem an appropriate time to be looking at self-care and self-love. We are, after all trying to get through this pandemic. But perhaps we might see self-love as the way for us to unlock ourselves to courageously step up to do our part in this crisis. Loving yourself will provide you with a greater capacity to love others.  

Hopefully you are doing social distancing is a generous and caring act and are doing it from the right intentions. If you are doing so solely out of fear for your survival then this is selfish. When we come from a loving place our actions may not look any different, but the results will be vastly different. If you focus on who you and know where what your purpose is, you become very attractive. You will inspire others. You’ll draw the world a bit closer by doing so.

If you are married or in a partnership this is great opportunity to read books or e-books, watch videos or films on relationships. Doing this together creates a fabulous enrichment program. You can pull in exercises from the internet and have meaningful conversations. We can actually take time listen to really one another. If you are physically separated you can do these conversations via the phone or over the internet.

There are many opportunities to build up your relationships with your children either by engaging in their school work as their newly deputized home-school teacher, by book reading times, doing projects, or playing board games. As weather warms outside activities offer more family time with walks, hikes, bikes rides, picnics and more. This can also be time to get into eating better, and doing more exercise individually and as a family.

It’s also a great chance to communicate – to really communicate – with family and friends. Take advantage by contacting people you care about but never seem to have the time to tell of your love and appreciation. Show your support and love to any and all who may feel out there alone and isolated with a phone call or a stop by and chat through their front door while keeping a safe distance. I support writing actual letters to our loved ones. Why not? We do seem to have the time, after all.

Avoid watching too much news. Very often the news is reporting terrible and tragic events. It is tough to digest so much of this. A welcomed and refreshing PBS addition to their weekly news segment is called: “My Brief But Spectacular Take.” It’s toward the end of the evening broadcast and features some of the brightest thinkers, makers, artists, and inventors who give passionate and original voices to those we might not otherwise see.

I say we can do our own brief but spectacular segment right in our own local communities – right on our own street even – by giving attention of those around us who are the current heroes out there doing generous and brave things. There are medical and hospital people, first-responders, police and firefighters, all who are risking their lives every day to eradicate this virus. There are also the bank clerks, gas station attendants, grocery and pharmacy cashiers, the news and media people, those that are providing food and delivery services and many others who are working in spite of personal risk and danger they must face.

Gratitude serves us well. And I propose we make it imperative that we express our gratitude verbally to people are doing so much. This includes local, state and national leaders. We can all pray not just for our own safety, but for all these people, for the safe recovery of those infected by this virus, as well as for the families that have lost loved ones.

I know it may sound crazy to say this is an opportunistic moment for us. It is a moment to remember our great American heritage as the land of the free and the home of the brave. Look around, you will see many brave Americans coming from a place of basic goodness. Let us tap into this central core of who we truly are, who we have always been even if we seem to have forgotten some of this. We are also part of a global community. We really are all in this together. One outcome just might be that we take to heart the reality that we are but one global community. This Covid-19 knows this. It treats us all the same. Isn’t about time we did so as well?

This is a very good time to start telling our own fish stories. We can publicize the many valiant efforts of so many people. Let’s start bragging about each other. Go ahead, even embellish, what you see. Share inspiring stories and let’s do our part to lift one another up. As we do so we can reflect the goodness in family members, in our neighbors, community and in strangers. Maybe a better way to describe these people is by seeing them more than even as heroes. Perhaps they are angels. Maybe they are the living saints among us.

If were to we love each other as God loves there’s no telling the good that’s will come out of this awful global pandemic. 2020 may be remembered as the year we all came together to change the world.

It is time to start preparing for the fact that we are each being made anew; that we’re being changed. We need to prepare for such a world. It will be the pandemic that we not merely survived; it will be what caused us to really make over a world where everyone might survive but is one where everyone gets to thrive. Now that’s what I call a great fish story!

Tips for Fishing and Living # 49

Tip #49:

“Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish.”

                                Roderick Haig-Brown, about modern fishing, A River Never Sleeps, 1946

For starters, we are pretty much utilitarian people. We focus mostly on the practical and doing things efficiently. In fact we mostly focus on the doing, period. Once again I contend there is a better way to live: being calm.  To do this we first and foremost must become conscious of the way we are being. Being has to do with awakening our entire energetic self so we are fully conscious, some would say fully awake. This is a radically different state than what we normally find ourselves in.

Being is about awareness and a capacity to be fully present, or to live in-the-moment. From such a place one is able to live intentionally. From such intentionality we do things very differently; namely, we do them from calmness and collectedness. It’s difficult to put Beingness into precise words as it is an ontological notion, nevertheless I will keep attempting to clarify it more.  

I’ve mentioned before the importance of being a non-dualistic thinking person. This has to do with one’s capacity to see the whole picture, not just some part or piece of any given issue. It is also about taking a systems approach, rather than a linear, black or white, yes or no perspective. It is more of a both-and way approach. This way of thinking appears “problematic” for those that seek simple answers to complex questions.

“One-issue voters” are people that find non-dualistic thinking quite difficult. They, also, are people that would struggle to be contemplative, and even discount its value. They are people who, instead get locked into one idea and then write off or discount all other aspects of the given issue. They pick their solution and then have no openness for any evidence that does not support their conclusion. They will not or cannot look at the whole. This is their way of being.

Contemplation is what allows a greater openness to new possibilities. Contemplation, besides doing many positive things, gets us to first calm down enough be able to access our greater thinking capacities – or in other words, be able to respond rather than simply react.

There is a tremendous difference in seeking knowledge or information about a particular topic when we come at it anxiously rather than when we come from curiosity. Even in the midst of this pandemic we can still do things smartly, while not being smart toward others. Being so-called smart, or harsh, toward others is an indication of our own anxiousness. Ironically this is not smart at all since it creates added distress.

Smart or intelligent actions while treating other people with kindness can only be done when one remains calm and alert. To be smart AND kind requires coming from a different way of being than that of someone who is perhaps doing similarly smart actions but is also reacting harshly. These two different ways of being produce very different results.

This is obviously a very tense, and yes, a scary time. People that tend to remain calm during less stressful situations will, more likely, be able to manage and cope during this heightened time of uncertainty. However, those that react easily or over-react and who haven’t developed a practice of being non-anxious, this is good time to get to work on this. Spoiler alert: Focus on your way of being first.

To be able to focus on our being requires we do regular and consistent self-reflection. Contemplation and/or meditation are great helps in this endeavor. But be forewarned: This will open up and confront you with various internal assumptions that we all carry around. These assumptions have been formed over a lifetime. They eventually become our fixed way of being. Once formed we rarely question them.

These built-in assumptions become an automatic already-always-way-of-thinking. I think of them as our factory-default that has become hard-wired in us. We don’t even notice this, but when we become anxious or are frightened these knee-jerk, automatic reactions are what we get thrown into operating from over and over again.  

We use our automatic thinking to help simplify life to cope with the vast number of complexities we’re confronted by every day. What this does, however, is cause us to instantly react to so many things, and this rapid response on our part blinds us from considering any new possibilities. We are blinded from other ways to proceed. Instead of being creative we’ll crank out our same-old, same-old patterns. By developing a contemplative practice we have a much easier time being reflective. It becomes then more difficult to blow off our inner voice and not be confronted by authentic self-awareness. There are greater chances we would be inclined to look at how we operate with our automatic givens and “shoulds.”

“I should or should not do such and such.”

Over a lifetime we develop unquestioned expectations primarily based upon what we think we should or shouldn’t do, as well as, what we think others should or should not do. We go through life with very particular, and often rigid, sets of attitudes and behaviors. Then we live from these unyielding – spoken and unspoken – rules regarding what passes for acceptable or not, without even questioning this.

“It’s just the way it is.” Our “it” might be our marriage, relationships, parents, children, politics, work, self, life itself, etc.

Not only do these unquestioned internal rules and mores get internalized as a given way of being, we usually go about finding agreement. We find other people that agree with us so that we can justify ourselves with just about anything. Folks often feel pretty strongly about whatever their particular list of “shoulds” consist of. You could say we should on ourselves.

Here’ a just few typical kinds of comments:

 “It’s terrible that that young man has a hat on in this building. He should know better.”

“Jeff should have called to thank me for the gift we sent him.”

“Mary should have offered help when she saw how huge this project is.”

“I should stop having anything to do with those people.”

People caught up in their expectations and perceptions of reality will come to see their way as the only possible way. They’ll then block out other people who they judged as simply wrong, ill-informed or not credible. They find it difficult to even be friends with someone with a different view point. Hence our sharply divided country over politics. It’s “my way or the highway” kind of thinking.

Perhaps this is the worst part: Ultimately such rigid and self-imposed expectations cause an impediment to our very own passions and desires. We forget them and we end up living a life based solely upon what we think others expect, not what we want or may have wanted at one time. Those things fall by the wayside. We live accordingly to an artificially imposed way and we do so without realizing what we have forfeited.

It’s as though we don’t have any right to live out of our very own and deeply held desires – all those things that make life actually worth living, and where we feel most alive. Instead, over time, these desires get shut down; subverted; denied. They are replaced with a stronger need – a need for being right, for looking good, or pleasing others.

Living this way carries a huge cost. Because we have let important dimensions of ourselves go awry we’re left with confusion, resentment, and anger. It’s not always noticeable. We can bury this most of the time as we acquiesce to the conventionality of life, while subverting our desires. But anger flares up, often getting displaced toward certain people and/or things. Eventually we can also become cynical; someone filled with resignation, depressed even. Cynicism and resignation are signs of unhappiness and discontent. It comes from a prolonged stance that I am a victim and am powerless. Blaming others for my discontent is a part of that factory-default thinking. It’s just the way it is.

Toleration can seem like a decent quality. It has its place but I largely view it as not very admirable. Even if I mostly tolerate you, toleration isn’t sustainable. Far more importantly, toleration is a form of superiority. I’m only tolerating you because I hold you as having “sub-par” thinking. I judge you having, therefore, “inadequate behaviors.” In other words I judge you incapable of doing better.

For the most part unhappy people blame others for their unhappiness. When I cannot see a part of myself that I am judging to be in you, then I more readily am able write you off. Whenever I am able to recognize I, too, am actually a like you – possibly more or less so, or at least in this particular way – my heart is then able to soften. I am able to connect with our shared common humanity.

Disconnected toleration breeds victimization thinking; it’s a poor-me approach. Even if I convince myself I have to put up with inadequate, sub-par people, this is still a form of poor-me thinking, and a guarantee for unhappiness.

It is not a great leap to lead one to self-medicating. Food, drugs, booze, affairs, gambling, becoming overly busy, living a frenetic life, and much more, all become convenient distractions. They are designed to take over our lives. We won’t have to look within. We’ll remain convinced we’re powerless. We tell ourselves we can’t do anything about our sorry lot in life.

The fisher people that go off to catch fish in order to relax and enjoy nature and thus slow down, are not the same people with T.Vs. or radios playing non-stop. They don’t need to fill in any potential silence that may foster self-reflection. They welcome this.

Some people tell me they have a radio playing while they’re in the shower. They eliminate quiet even there. I personally find a shower to be an excellent opportunity not only for good hygiene, but mentally helpful, as well. Within the confines of the shower are potential eureka moments – an Aha – one that may suddenly come about by my thinking two desperate, or crazy, or even disconnected thoughts about something I’ve been pondering. Then, suddenly, it all comes together and I am provided with a creative solution – a totally new possibility.

Calm parents will or won’t get their children to successfully do all the assignments that schools are pumping out during this pandemic. But by offering each other and to our children a calm and collected, adult voice – a confident voice – one that communicates we are going to get through this tough time – this is going to do more positively for our children in the long run. They may need to catch up on geography and with multiplication, but they will through this historic time not traumatized by parental and societal fears. Our way of being is what’s most critically needed.   

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that I’ve made a case that fisher people are hardly unique in pursuing a contemplative way of being. Those who do so usually aren’t sitting around discussing it – they are out there doing it by being it.

With the present pandemic, and with so much shut down, we have two ways of being. As we take on our communal efforts to lessen the impact of the coronavirus Covid-19 by social distancing and by following the guidelines we have, we can minimize its spread. How we can do this is up to us.

  • An anxious state

Or from,

       (b) A calm state.

We have an unintended opportunity for each of us to become more like fisher people, and to take advantage of this slowing down. We can utilize as a healthy resource to grow in our capacity to love, and to make a difference. In our own ways, each of us can utilize this time for greater personal reflection and start to see the amazing good that is being done. We are blessed with a vast number of heroes and courageous people in every arena. We are all being carried by and lifted up by so many toward common goal.

This is a time our nation can and will shine. America is greatest when our goodness pours forth as we are already seeing happen. You and I have a chance to be also counted as an expression of this goodness, as well. We will get through this pandemic; we will also great through the ensuing recession. And we will do so because we did it together.

There is no such thing a cheap grace. Be assured, this is a grace-filled moment by how we are choosing to be

Tips for Fishing and Living # 48

Tip #48:

“People who fish for food, and sport be damned, are called pot-fishermen.  The more expert ones are called crack pot-fishermen.  All other fishermen are called crackpot fishermen.  This is confusing.” 

                                                                                                                Ed Zern, 1947

If this is confusing allow me to add to it: Psycho-ceramics is the study of cracked pots. A silly joke, of course, as I’m sure the author for this week’s fishing quote was also attempting some humor. Sheer nuttiness on his part, and mine as well. It is said that it takes a bit of insanity to live in this often insane world. What I do know is we do best when we are able to joke a bit, and do even better when we don’t take ourselves too seriously no matter how serious a situation has become.

Presently we are in a very confusing and difficult time, clearly a time of uncertainty – Surreal perhaps. It seems we must not become overly consumed by this enormous global and national crisis, while at the same time also do all the urgent and necessary things to help reduce this dangerous pandemic. In other words, stay calm while also acting responsibly. For instance we can take on doing social distancing as an act of charity vs. doing so from a place of fearfulness.

This is a time for thinking clearly and calmly. Many people are becoming anxious and some are being thrown into panic. This will not help. Rather we all do need to use common sense, taking all the appropriate actions – social distancing, washing hands, etc. – even with the risk we might be later judged as having been over-reactive. We must do our best and also remain calm.

George Carlin, many years ago now, had a very funny bit where he chided us about how we have become a nation of fearful people who are even willing to surrender more and more of our freedoms for the feeling – the illusion, he would say – of safety. He said we have become a neurotic population obsessed over safety, drugs, crime, cleanliness, hygiene and germs.

With this latest coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we must sort through the fear driven reactions and choose the important ways to deal with this unprecedented situation. Between a lack of preparedness, forms of denial, and deception, along with over-reactivity from an anxiously driven populace, we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis of historic proportions.  What George Carlin would have said today, I do not know.

What I do know and I am confident about is we will persevere. We will get through this. It requires each of us to pitch in and see ourselves as in this together. Unfortunately some of the more vulnerable will not. It is all but certain we are also headed for a recession. To what extent we will have to wait and see. First, we can do our best to limit the virus from spreading. If we think only of ourselves and not of others out there who we might unintentionally infect because we did not take better precautions we will have failed. We all must do a good job to avoid contact with others because we will save lives.

The calm and steady handed approach will win the day. Allow me to offer the following reflection for your consideration. It is not the total scope of what we must do. It is perhaps more about the way we must these things. It is how we must be in the midst of what we do.

The following reflection comes from a flight school instructor, entitled: Attitude is everything.

“89% of all single prop small aircraft crashes are survivable. Most people can walk away from a “controlled crash” without a scratch. It all has to do with right attitude. In aviation, attitude is a double entendre. For airplane flights “right attitude” means flying parallel to earth.

Even with the loss of the engine the plane, if kept parallel to the ground, can glide to earth and have a controlled crash at roughly 38 miles per hour. Such a crash, even in a rough terrain, can be survivable.

However, if the pilot doesn’t maintain proper attitude and for various reasons attempts to raise the plane, say in the hope of reaching a runway, and lifts the plane, this will cause the plane more than likely to create a stall condition. When the plan stalls the plane will begin to drop into an accelerated tailspin. As the plane now starts to nose dive directly toward earth – perpendicular to the ground – it will increase its speed at 32 feet per second and within eight seconds reach a maximum speed of 120 miles per hour. This vertical direction toward the ground at this great speed is, of course, not likely survivable.

It is therefore essential that the pilot when faced with such a serious problem remains calm and collected – or in the language of Dr. Murray Bowen – becomes a “non-anxious presence.” The pilot must remain focused at all times in order to keep the craft at the proper attitude. He or she must refrain from any impulsive or wishful thinking that will only lead to a poor result. Instead, the pilot must prepare for having a controlled crash that needs to be ridden out to its conclusion. The plot’s very life, as well as the lives of any others on board, is at stake.

Each one of us is the pilot of our own lives. Each of us impacts other people’s lives. It is therefore paramount we remain calm while we go about doing all the very important actions to assist us get through this difficult time.

The second point: Besides remaining calm, we need to remember we are all in this together. This gets me back to our actions needing to be seen from the notion that they are acts of charity. When all is said and done, what matters most are our relationships – with our mates, children, neighbors, and friends. We are a community of communities and this makes us one global family.

There was an old Broadway musical (later made into a movie) called: “Stop the World; I Want to Get Off.” At various points throughout the play the lead character speaks directly to the audience about what he is searching for. He keeps looking to find happiness and fill the empty spot within him. It is only toward the very end of the play as an old man he now realize what he has spent his entire life looking for was always right there in front of him. What he valued most of all was his love for his wife and his family.

Perhaps we will discover, or rediscover, through this time of all the various shut downs, social distancing and a forced version of “Stop the World…” that we too have always had or have access to what is most important. And it has been right there in front of us all the time. May we be able to reflect, to sort out, and select all that is important and jettison that which is not.

Who knows what this slowing down will accomplish? Perhaps there may be an unintended positive outcome. Whether you are fishing or just hunkering down, may this slowing down time be a time of grace and charity.  

Tips for Fishing and Living # 47

Tip #47:

“There is no greater fan of fly-fishing than the worm.” 

                                              Patrick F. McManus, Never Sniff a Gift Fish, 1979

Nobody gets very far in this life all on their own. People love to talk like they did it on their own, and to spout the famous quote how they “pulled themselves up by their own boot straps.” This of course is simply not true. You may have worked exceedingly long and very hard but all us have received help from many others even if we can’t or won’t admit it.

The reason we have been given help is true is because each of us have benefitted from all those who have gone before us. Each of us stands on the shoulders of many, many people. It’s also true that we have learned so much from lots of people – parents, teachers, coaches, authors – and countless others along the way. Even if you had parents that were complete flops as parents, we can still say “thank you” to them for giving us life, plus whatever else they were able to provide. If your parents fell short by doing many things wrong or by doing things very poorly, still say “thank you.” They taught you what not to do. It is still all a gift.

I consider myself to be a pretty independent, self-reliant person. However, in my heart, I also am profoundly well aware that both sets of my grandparents came to this country around the turn of the last century. They left their own birth land to never return there again. They had to travel across the Atlantic by steamship and arrived in a totally unfamiliar place. They overcame many hardships, made enormous sacrifices, and persevered through huge challenges. And through all of this they managed to eke out a life in a foreign country with a foreign language and foreign customs. They raised my parents to take up this effort and to further it. My own parents continued this pursuit of hard work and progress. The result of their doing so, they literally paved the way for me. Because of them I get to enjoy the great life I have today.

Because of them I continue to enjoy wonderful opportunities. I am here because they were brave enough to risk everything. I got to grow up in a place where I would meet my wife, where we would then fall in love, marry, and together raise our family. When I sit today in our fabulous house, or when our children and their spouses and children gather together, I am filled with deep gratitude as I think of my ancestors. I enjoy so much that I could easily, and too often do, take for granted. But in my heart I know none of these things would ever have been possible without their courage, sacrifice and bravery.

It’s so easy to be delusional and think we did it on our own. But you and I know we are our parents’ and grandparents’ legacy. The rugged individual is a myth; it’s a lie. Okay, you worked very hard to become educated, to pursue a career, and to make something out of your life. But you and I were only able to do this is because of what our parents and all those other people who came before us did to pave the way. We honor our ancestors when we go about living our life out fully. My succeeding in my life today means their sacrifice was not made in vain. I believe they look down from above and smile.     

It’s more than silly to think that we each did it on our own. People are quick to blame their parents and/or families when their life doesn’t work out as they planned. But less often do we credit our parents for our successes. It is important we recognize we are standing on the ground of our forefathers and foremothers. This is sacred ground. They toiled, often paying a great price, so we could have this moment to do our thing – and hopefully doing our thing is something worthwhile.

On a systemic level it’s also true when it comes to our nation. All those who gained our freedom and liberties and who did heroic things did so for us to have our democracy today. The baton has been passed. We need to acknowledge those who went before us and gave us this present – precious – moment. 

Each of us drives on roads, across bridges, and utilizes structures built by many who came before us. We are here living in this democracy because 34 men originally signed the Declaration of Independence. These forefathers declared our nation’s independence from Great Britain. They DECLARED our independence. They then spent their lives being hunted down by the British as traitors. Many were captured, imprisoned, and tortured. Several were killed. All of them risked everything and had to flee for their lives. Because of their bravery, we, their beneficiaries, live here in a place we too often take for granted.

If we are honest we must admit that we’re often willing to let others pick up the slack or take over responsibility for today’s challenges with the rigorous work it entails. But, in fact, we are charged to do our part. This includes acknowledging what it is we have inherited, and what it means for us to now make our contribution for future generations. What kind of a world are we to leave our children?

In a large way our stepping up has not been looking so good. Starting with the environment, we have done much to ruin the planet and we continue being irresponsible towards making it better. Returning to the fishing metaphor, we think little regarding the cost to the worm. Fishing with bait is tough on the worm, but usually we only see the prize of the fish we catch.

In Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline, he writes about how leaders often make decisions that they then do not get to experience the consequences of their decisions. He calls this is an organizational learning disability. This is also often true in all systems: families, businesses, institutions.

In the New Testament we’re told how Jesus chided Peter, who is on the beach and who hadn’t caught any fish, by instructing him to go back out again and this time cast his nets in a certain area. The result of Peter doing so is he caught so many fish that he had trouble containing them. Peter immediately realizes this Jesus to be someone radically special, and in Peter’s view, beyond Peter’s own self-worth. Jesus disregards Peter’s off putting comments, and instructs him to leave everything, follow him, and be a fisher of people. What Peter does not realize, at the time, is that this invitation will eventually require Peter to become the bait. Peter will be consumed by this calling. His new vocational calling will cost him his life. And it is the only calling that is worthwhile.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 46

Tip #46:

“Reading about baseball is a lot more interesting than reading about chess, but you have to wonder:  Don’t any of these guys ever go fishing?” 

Dave Shiflett, quoted in Houston Chronicle, 29 April 1990

Tom, a brilliant bio-mechanical engineering PhD, was one of the most book-smart people I’ve ever met. He would expound at theoretical levels and speak at ease on esoteric concepts in ways that would dazzle any listener. But when it came to doing the simplest of things, like replacing a faulty plug on the end of an extension cord, Tom was completely lost. He probably knew the origin and inventor of the screwdriver; he simply had difficulty using one.

There is smart and then there is street smart. Each of us has our own area(s) of brilliance, and also our preferred way of learning. Some of us are auditory learners; some are visual learners; and some learn best kinesthetically. Visual learners draw upon the use of maps, charts, graphs, diagrams and pictures. They use visual images in order to absorb information, and they benefit from visual aids to help explain concepts and ideas.

Auditory learners benefit from hearing and listening to things like presentations and lectures. Audio recordings and group discussions help them as well. They will often close their eyes and “see” while they listen and will make mental pictures of what is being presented. These are the folks that can identify a song with three or four notes, or who listen intently to podcasts while driving. They are people who problem-solve when they dream or close their eyes to think.

Kinesthetic learners learn best when they are afforded hands-on, tactile experiences. They especially do well with physical activities in order to apply new information. Outdoor demonstrations, science fairs, and labs are their paradise. These are the people who do well with on-the-job training. Apprenticeships in various fields requiring manual or physical tasks, such as automotive repairs, plumbing and electrical work are, among others, arenas kinesthetic people excel.   

 Teachers sometimes don’t take different learning styles into account and teach mostly from one style. Usually they teach in the style most suited to their own learning preference. They’ll then miss the other students that aren’t learning the lesson or learning it well. It may be more of a teaching problem than that of a learning problem. Effective teachers teach in all three styles.

To expand some:

If the lesson is about, say, the railroad and how trains advanced through history, a superior teacher would incorporate the three styles into the lessons. Pictures and films, as well as, lectures can be presented for visual learners. Auditory learners could be incorporated into gaining understanding through stories with actual whistles and the sounds of steam and electric trains, and of train wheels turning, the chugging sounds as a train picks up speed, and so on. Kinesthetic learning would come by having the students go to an actual train station. There students would have an opportunity to climb in and out of train cars, experience the comings and goings of passengers and conductors. Getting to walk out onto the track stop and go through the train car doors, sitting in the seats, and touching various parts of the trains would give these students hands-on experiences.

The reality is that we all tend to benefit and learn best when all three of these styles get presented. This anonymous saying expresses this sentiment well.

“I hear and I forget.

I see and I remember.

I do and I understand.”

One of our sons attended a small New Haven high school. This school is right at the water front of New Haven harbor facing Long Island Sound. As part of the curriculum, each student in a small group, and with supervision, were tasked with building a small sailing boat. The boat, called a Sharpie, which is a small harbor oyster-fishing boat that dates back from early colonial times. The students had to build their boat in the school’s wood shop, and then successfully sail it. It was an extremely exciting moment when these small boats were actually launched. The learning that resulted from this project had so many academic and technical learning experiences that came during the course of the project. This entire project was priceless.   

Possibly with the exception of Jeopardy, the smartest people usually are not the ones who win the trophies or ribbons or the prize money. It’s the ones who roll up their sleeves, pay close attention, and figure out things. They problem-solve. In doing so they make mistakes. From such a process they also discover that so-called mistakes come with learning. Mistakes actually become quite beneficial. Learners understand the idea of a learning curve.

“True wisdom comes from experience.

Experience is often the result of lack of experience.”

Terry Pratchett

On many occasion I have chided a struggling married couple in counseling that their problem is that when they got married no one gave them the “definitive marriage manual.” I’m implying, of course, that there is NO such manual.

There are, of course, countless books and manuals as well as courses and programs regarding marital relationships – some good and some not-so-good. But ultimately none of these can account for every possible dynamic a couple will encounter. Each couple needs to learn from their own hands-on learning, on-the-job experiences of day-to-day couple living. They will make their share of mistakes, and then, successful couples use these mistakes to figure out ways to improve. With perseverance they grow from and through them.

Numerous manuals offer decent guidelines with helpful suggestions, but do not offer any sure-fire, quick-fix methods or techniques to automatically fix things. I use several of them when guiding couples in learning to how to grow and better manage their conflict – conflict that comes with any relationship. One excellent book and one I often promote is: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman. Another excellent one is Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt.

But the most important thing to realize is there is no one extraordinary, or definitive, marital relationship. There is only your extraordinary marital relationship.

If you want a great self-growth program all you need to do is: (1) get married, (2) get a job, and (3) have a kid or two. With this you will be confronted by all sorts of challenges that you will have to contend with. You will be tested. EVERYTHING will show up! You’ll be forced to figure out what to do with this and this and this…Thus you’ll be confronted by these things that potentially cause you to grow. The common saying, “that which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger,” often rings true in so many ways.

Like other essays, I haven again taken liberty in giving my own spin regarding what a fishing quote is saying. I believe the one cited conveys the vast difference between merely reading about something vs. actually doing it or taking action. Reading about baseball, or chess, or even fishing, never offers anything close to what the actual doing the activity can provide.

I have a friend whose grandparents when they died left each of their grandchildren a significant amount of money to use only for either: (1) getting a college education, or (2) for serious traveling.  My friend’s grandparents understood that while college can broaden one’s mind, so too can traveling to experience first-hand different places and cultures. Traveling and living in other parts of the world will likely broaden one’s otherwise limited perspective significantly.

I drifted a bit from fishing, but you may have picked up on the idea of how both action and contemplation are important in order to engage effectively in our relationships, and in life in general. If so, then, perhaps, you’ll forgive some of my long-winded idea salad.

To this I say, Thank you.