Tips for fishing and Living # 65

Tip #65:

“Fly-fishing is a very pleasant amusement; but angling or float fishing, I can only compare to a stick and a string, with a worm at one end and a fool at the other.”

                          Attributed to Samuel Johnson (a/k/a Dr. Johnson) (“The Great Cham of Literature”),

While television, movies and novels all provide some excellent entertainment, it is for the most part, a too convenient way to avoid actually living our own lives fully. Instead we can go about passively watching these entertaining experiences while living somewhat vicariously. People who watch soap operas tell friends and colleagues the next day the latest episode from the previous day as if it is real life. They’ll talk about the actors as though they are not playing a character but are real people.

Some people watch sports events and become so caught up in their team either winning or losing that we can get outright depressed if their favorite team doesn’t win, or get elated if their team does win a victory. In other words people sometimes opt for being spectators in life, content to sit on the sidelines watching others living as a substitute for the possibility for an interesting and engaging life of their own. This is a displaced way of living.

Those who are actually partaking in an active and fulfilling life do not have time to ponder what is exciting or interesting. They are too busy living it.  When one takes on a fully engaged life then they experience a tremendous shift. Such people become transformed. They find themselves often living in timelessness. And periodically they become altered into an eternity. Another way to say this is they are living in the present moment, and as such time stands still.

I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to the above fishing quote that the author is attempting to convey a personal joy in the activity of fly fishing. It also seems fine to be content, if one chooses, to drop a baited line into the water and wait to see what comes of it. For me as a non-fisherman, I find the best part of either practice to be in the enjoyment of being out there in the midst of a lovely waterscape, beautiful skyline, and surrounded by nature, all while fishing. You see while I know that God is everywhere I am so much better at taking in the omnipresent God whenever I do slow down enough. Fishing is but one way to potentially facilitate this slowing down process.  

This past weekend our refrigerator stopped working. Given the hot summer day we have been having and the uncertainty of our 8-year old unit as worth the expense of repairing, I became distressed as to what we ought to do. Should just purchase another one? Should we pay for a technician to first diagnose it? After describing the symptoms to our service person over the phone it seemed the compressor was the problem. Sunday morning, after several phone calls with long “holding” times for each call, I finally got through to the authorized service people because we learned our compressor is still under warranty but had to have the authorized service technician do the repairs. They could not come until the end of the week. I took the Friday appointment knowing that if the compressor was the culprit we would only pay for the installation.  

The entire morning was hectic and I was exhausted by the whole ordeal. We had come very close to cancelling a pre-planned visit with dear friends in the neighboring State, but decided to still go the 90 mile trip after we explained to them what our morning had been like. Once we got finally on the road I suggested to my wife we take turns recalling wonderful moments or fond memories we each had from over our long marital life. We soon began this fun exercise that lasted a good 30 to 40 minutes. One memory prompted another. By the end of our joint recollecting we each were feeling terrific – elated. My earlier distress was completely gone.  

I realize we could have easily dwelled on the earlier morning drama of our broken down refrigerator instead. We could have obsessed over what we could have, should have, might yet need to do, etc., or we might have started fretting over the whole business of the morning and continued to feel stressed, if not even worse. But we did not. Instead we put what had occurred that morning into the past. And we took charge of our present emotional state.

The fun activity we did brought about some welcomed laughter and joy. Upon reflection I concluded that the broken-down refrigerator is, after-all, just a machine! It broke down but this did not have to determine our happiness or lack thereof.  Rather we were responsible for generating a positive emotional state – one that better served us.

None of us gets to determine the circumstances of our lives. What we do get to do is determine how we respond to the circumstances of our lives. And to this extent we get to have a powerful say in the matter of our life.  As of this writing our refrigerator is still broken (The service rep will arrive today). We have an old refrigerator in our basement that we plug in during the holidays that is now holding our food. We’re getting by. It will be nice to have the repairs done, but “it’s only a machine.”

While I do not frequent fishing brooks or streams, I do spend time in parks, nearby woods, and local beaches, as well as, and I do a daily practice of journaling. These are some of my various efforts to cultivate a contemplative lifestyle. These practices have helped to set the ground work for my capacity to often remain calm or to shift into being non-reactive. This past Sunday on our car ride was an example of these practices paying off and facilitating a positive emotional state. I don’t always get it right, but I think these practices are proving them worthwhile.

Question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Answer: Practice, practice, practice.

Many of us are life-long learners. I see each of us as a work in process. Whatever so-called “failures” or mistakes I have made, and I assure there are many, I attempt to utilize and provide plenty of learning opportunities in my process of growing and developing.

Whenever I do make a blunder I usually ask myself:

‘What is the take-away from this latest mishap or blunder?’

A commitment to a contemplative life is not about trying to become perfect. It is about being able to live more consciously and more aware. This is the shift that can come about with a commitment to a contemplative life. It is there within those times that we have moments of feeling timeless. This really means we are present to the reality of God’s omnipresence and infinite love – Divine Love. From this we are compelled to love in return both God and our neighbor. This is most apparent once we realize that we are intimately connected to God and to one another. You might discover this while fly fishing, or in a myriad of other ways. Enjoy the process.