Tips for Fishing and Living # 11

Tip #11:

“O, sir, doubt not that Angling is an art; is it not an art to deceive a trout with an artificial fly?” Isaak Walton

Years ago I discovered something quite useful: we are all meaning-makers. In other words, we make up everything. There is really no meaning to anything, until you or I give it a meaning. For instance, if it rains on the day we had planned to go on a picnic, we might say, “Darn rain!” If, however, we are farmers living in a drought ridden region trying to raise a crop, and it begins to rain, we might go running outside and jump up and down in the puddles while shouting, “Hip, hip, hurrah!” But here’s the thing that we don’t seem to realize: the rain is simply rain. No more and no less. It’s just rain. There is no meaning to the rain other than the one you or I assigned it. It didn’t rain to ruin picnic plans, or did it rain to help the farmers. If this makes sense to you, what I want you to consider is that this is not only true about rain, it is actually true about EVERYTHING.    

 We live by stories and pictures that we carry around. It isn’t what happened as much as what we make what happened mean. We make up these meanings about events and people, and then we run with them. Often we stake our very lives on these perceptions – interpretations – when they are based upon old unquestioned perceptions. Not only that, but we carry them along with us into the present moments not seeing that they come from our past. We call this preconceived way of thinking as our “already, always way of thinking.” Here’s an example: Let’s say I want to go see a particular movie. Then I think, ‘my wife won’t want to see this kind of movie; see hates action thrillers.’ So I might just write it off and even be annoyed at her for not wanting to go to a movie I have already decided she’d refuse to see. Or I might crank up my approach by telling her we could go see this movie and catch dinner at her favorite restaurant that happens to be close by the theater. In other words, I’d try to sell it to her. Why would I do this? I do this because I, after all, already know what she is going to say. How so? From the past! This is folly at best; at worse, it can prove dangerous. It is disastrous, especially whenever we do such thinking regarding our relationships as we may discount or override the other person(s).

 In the real world – the physical world – we place a high need on being right.  There is certain logic to this. We had better get it right when we go to cross the street with on-going traffic. We ought to not touch the hot stove.  We should not drink poison, and so on. Being right in the physical world is critical to our very survival. Get the street crossing wrong just once and you will perish! However it is a very different situation when it comes to relationships, or to what we might call our “Conceptual” world.” Often we treat our need to be RIGHT in this conceptual world with the same importance we give it in the physical world.  As a society we are seem to be addicted to this need to being “Right.” And we even treat our need to be right as if being wrong would cause us to die, at least existentially.

 The fundamental problem seems to be that we have thoughts, and we think these thoughts are real. We are constantly thinking thoughts, thinking thoughts, and thinking thoughts, 24-7. This in itself is not the concern. However, that we think WE ARE OUR THOUGHTS is a problem. It would be much wiser to consider that we HAVE thoughts, and we are not our thoughts.  We, and our thoughts, are distinct. There is me, and there are my thoughts.

Also, just because we think something doesn’t make it true. I have a placard I often give to others that reads: “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.” It is, after all, only a thought. Here’s the good news: If we are the ones making up these thoughts, and then we become bummed out by them, we would do well to ask ourselves, ‘Why keep doing this?’ ‘Why not make up better thoughts – thoughts that move us, touch us, and inspire us?’ Some will dismiss this as Pollyanna.  But real freedom lies in making up thoughts all the while also knowing that we are the ones making up the thoughts. Then, we are free to choose to live accordingly by these made-up thoughts or choosing different thoughts. It is great to have meaning and purpose for one’s life. But it is more liberating to make these up all the while also knowing I am the one making them up. This way I can be totally commitment to my thought while also not attached to any particular outcome.

Our understanding of the universe today is being radically altered by the revolutionary discoveries in new sciences of quantum physics, chaos theory, and biology. The problem is we are still thinking from 17th century Newtonian science, and it appears we will remain stuck until we embrace these newer ways of seeing our world. It seems to me this shift would go a long way toward making us at least smarter than a trout.

It’s just a thought.